Cecil DeMott

Atchison County, Missouri, farmer Cecil DeMott says the skills he learned in the Army helped him in his farming career. DeMott spent time in Germany in the early 1970s during the Cold War.

ROCK PORT, Missouri — In 1972, Cecil DeMott was 20 years old when he received a letter that he had been drafted into the U.S. Army.

“I knew it was coming,” he says. “What I didn’t know was when.”

President Richard Nixon stopped the draft shortly after, and DeMott says he was the last person in his county, Atchison County, who was drafted and went into the service.

Today, DeMott farms with family in that county, on a Century Farm, in the river bottoms and gorgeous rolling hills of northwest Missouri. He says his military training and experience provided him with skills that can be useful in farming.

“It definitely goes hand in hand,” he says. “In the military, you’ve got to be ready all the time. In farming, you have to have the planter ready to go when the field is ready. Or knowing when to sell, you may have less than 30 days to market your crop and make a profit.”

Of his two years in the Army, DeMott spent 19 months stationed in Würzburg, Germany. It was then West Germany, and DeMott was in the 3rd Infantry Division with soldiers who had to be ready if the Cold War turned into an active military conflict in Europe.

“It was a frontline infantry division,” he says. “If we’d have had a problem with the Eastern Bloc countries, we would’ve been the first ones to respond.”

Würzburg is in the Bavaria region of Germany, and he was part of a transport company, delivering fuel, ammunition, mail and food, so he got to see a lot of the country.

“I knew it was going to be a long way from home,” DeMott says. “But I got to see Europe like a lot of people rarely do. They have excellent food.”

In 1973, DeMott says the 1st Infantry Division came over from Fort Riley, Kansas, and he got to participate in war games and training with them.

“There was a lot of brass walking around, big shots,” he says.

Overall, DeMott says he enjoyed the experience, although it was a reminder that during the Cold War, there was always the threat of the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union escalating into battle.

“You felt comfortable,” DeMott says. “But you always felt in the back of your mind, that the Cold War could (become an armed conflict).”

While he is proud to have served his country, DeMott recalls at the time also being somewhat disappointed he had to put his regular life on hold to go overseas.

“I was kind of bummed out I had to go do that and a lot of other people didn’t,” he says. “But when I came back and looked back on it, it was an eye-opening experience. It was very educational.”

Continuing to learn has long been a big part of DeMott’s life, including serving on the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council board and as chairman of its research committee. He also works as a Missouri representative to the North Central Soybean Research Project.

“It’s been a great experience,” he says. “I’ve met a lot of fantastic people.”

The checkoff-funded research addresses a wide range of topics, including new uses and new markets for soybeans, as well as improving yield and tackling a number of challenges to soybeans, including soybean cyst nematode, which DeMott says is a key obstacle right now.

“I think right now it’s SCN,” he says. “That’s the big, silent robber of yield. Resistance is starting to break down. They’re making headway, but it’s slow going.”

DeMott extends that push for knowledge and analytical approach to his farming operation. He listens each week to weather outlooks and has charts to help him evaluate the current supply situation and know at what prices to try to market his crops. He watches trends in stocks and usage rates.

“I’m kind of an information freak,” he says. “The question of how do you know when to sell, I’ve had to educate myself of that. In this ballgame, there’s something to learn every day.”

Years ago, DeMott’s Army experience helped him learn and grow. He says it was a very valuable experience for his life.

“It’s an experience I wouldn’t take a million dollars for,” he says.

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.