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Combines and conference calls: Munzlinger talks about his life as a full-time farmer and senator

   

LEWISTOWN, Mo. — Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Lewis County, wakes up before the sun, checks his email, reads the latest headlines on JohnCombest.com and gets ready for what will inevitably be a 12-hour day on the farm.

The Senator is one of few in the General Assembly — and the last in the upper chamber— who still is a row crop farmer.

Munzlinger remembers being as young as 9-years-old working on his family farm that’s currently in its third generation. Now, he works his just less than 1,400 acres of land between two farms in Lewis County with his wife, Michele and daughter Lea.

Munzlinger explains the technology in his combine, including his GPS system that allows him to track his yield. (all photos by Ashley Jost)
Munzlinger explains the technology in his combine, including his GPS system that allows him to track his yield. (all photos by Ashley Jost)

“I guess it’s kind of instilled in you when you’re young,” he says. “Put seeds in the ground, watch them grow and God will do what he will. I like to get dirty out here on the farm and like to get away. It’s really up to me and the Lord to do what’s going to happen out here — much different than the legislature.”

The combine Munzlinger drives has updated technology that shows him everything he needs to know about his current yield, potential yield and which section of his land he’s in (an important thing to keep track of when it comes to crop insurance).

Also on the technology front, the senator has his cell phone, which certainly keeps him occupied as texts, emails and calls come in about legislative committee votes and the like.

“I get lots of phone calls, emails and texts every day when I’m out here,” he says after reading one text about how much a bushel of corn is marketed for that day, and another about how the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted on a much-discussed Ethanol issue.

Munzlinger enjoys the multi-tasking that comes with being northeast Missouri’s state senator on top of his farming career, but during session, life can get stressful.

“The legislature runs until the middle of May, and as I’m coming home on Thursday, it’s raining,” he says while laughing. “And then, as I’m going back Monday, everyone is out in the field working. So, I don’t get the majority of my crops in until after session.”

Munzlinger, his daughter Lea and wife, Michele pose for a photo by their family truck. (photo by Ashley Jost)
Munzlinger, his daughter Lea and wife, Michele pose for a photo by their family truck. (photo by Ashley Jost)

Munzlinger grows soybeans and non genetically modified corn. The beans, he says, are contracted out, but for several years now, the non-GMO corn goes to Japan to make beer, yielding a better premium for the Senator and his family.

Much like it’s important to have lawyers, doctors and accountants, Munzlinger says there’s a role for farmers in the legislature too to help contribute to policies that apply to such industries.

“I remember back when I started as a young kid, you could be on a tractor or cultivator and be able to look back at the end of the day and see where you started,” he says about the changes in farming. “Now, with today’s big equipment that we’ve got, it’s nothing to do 100-plus acres a day. Plus, with biotechnology and technology that’s been developed around making sure we do a better job as farmer — there have just been a lot of changes.”

He jokes that the precision agriculture practices that can come from the GPS programs or even a tractor that drives itself would seem like something from the Jetsons “back in the day,” but it’s all a reality now.

Keeping ahead of the changes with agriculture is something Munzlinger says he strives to help his colleagues in the general assembly with, especially those on his Agriculture Committee that he has been the chairman of for three years.

This interim, Munzlinger says he did something differently and created an educational tour for the committee called “Keeping up with Agriculture.” Part of the tour included learning about how different regions of the state thrive in particular parts of agriculture, how important river transportation is and the inner workings of the agribusiness aspect.

Leading up to session, Munzlinger says he plans to keep spending his days on the tractor or combine, with his daughter driving nearby to collect the harvest in the auger wagon (a really large wagon of sorts attached to a tractor) and his wife working in the barn with the harvested crops.

“I enjoy all of what I do,” Munzlinger says matter-of-factly. “It can be a lot, but you know, I like it. I wouldn’t be doing all of this if that wasn’t true.”