For the past four generations, the McCleave family has served their extended family and community through their dedication to agriculture and farming the land.
This summer, Randy and Janie McCleave, along with their sons, Jack and Nick, were honored for this work and commitment. During the Missouri State Fair’s 60th annual Missouri Family Farm Day on Aug. 13, they were named the 2018 Cass County Missouri farm family.
Connection to the land has been the cornerstone of the McCleaves’ lives. Randy and Janie McCleave both grew up on farms in Harrisonville and still operate those farms today with their sons. Their 300-acre diversified operations consist of beef cattle, forage production and such crops as soybean.
“It makes me proud to put in a hard day’s work and get something out of it,” said Jack McCleave, 22. “On a farm, you’re part of your work from start to finish. You put seeds in the ground and watch them grow, or raise calves from time they’re newborn. In agriculture, you get to reap the benefits of your hard work.”
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Janie,McCleave was raised on the farm purchased and cultivated by her great-grandfather that is still farmed by her husband and sons today. This multi-generational legacy is at the core of the life she and Randy have built together.
“When Randy and I married, we wanted our kids to have what we had,” she said. “It makes me proud that we’re taking care of my family’s farm and keeping it in the family. I’m thankful we have this land to pass down.”
“Passing this land down from generation to generation is one of the best things I can think of,” he said.
From the time they were young, every member of the McCleave family has not only been committed to farming, but also to the Future Farmers of America. As a family, they have participated in and contributed to the organization at every level. While mentoring and supporting members and their projects, the McCleaves also have shared their agricultural values and love for the land with countless young people in Cass County.
Randy, Jack and Nick McCleave have all served as the organization’s chapter and area presidents. For many years, Janie has planned the group’s premier yearly event — a banquet for more than 300 FFA members and their families.
In 2014, Randy and Janie McCleave were named honorary members of the Cass County Chapter FFA for their long-term service to the group.
“I had very good ‘ag’ instructors and mentors growing up. They taught me a lot,” Randy McCleave said. “I wanted to see my kids and other kids have the same experience.”
Providing this experience was only one reason the McCleave family was honored as this year’s Cass County Missouri farm family. It was also a recognition of the positive effect Missouri farm families have on their state.
“The State Fair event showcases the impact farm families have on the economy and heritage of the state,” said Mark Wolfe, Missouri State Fair director. “These families are involved in agricultural activities in their communities and are active participants in local outreach and extension. It is certainly important to celebrate them.”
For the McCleaves, the legacy of their family’s agricultural life, and their understanding of the value of this life, is something they want to continue sharing with others.
“Land is something they don’t make anymore,” said Randy McCleave. “Farms are getting so much bigger. Being able to survive and be part of farming is a dying trend.”
As a millennial, Jack McCleave believes there’s a lack of awareness in his generation about our shared dependence on the natural environment and agriculture.
“More and more people are getting away from farming,” he said. “People my age don’t know how their food got on their plate. They think it just shows up. People need to think about where their food comes from and ask how it got there.”