First-Generation Farmer Gavin Spoor Proves Passion Pays Off

Positivity sprouts with every word when talking to Gavin Spoor. At 23 years old, he’s built a business.

“It grew a lot quicker than I was expecting it to,” says Spoor who farms in Audrain County, Mo. “But it's exactly what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

Spoor grew up in the country in rural Missouri, but his parents didn’t farm.

“From the age of three or four, I’d be staring out the kitchen window or dining room window watching our neighbors farm.”

Surrounded by farm ground, and watching neighboring farmers work the soil, it seemed the farm is where this first-generation farmer fit in. 

“Every young guy is just fascinated by dirt, diesel engines and big tractors,” says Spoor, with a smile. “So, it was right up my alley. And as I got older and got into high school, I started working for some local farmers, and that's just grown from there.”

With the will to work, that planted an opportunity.

“It just so happened my freshman year of college, I got to rent 6 acres,” adds Spoor. “I was working for a guy who farmed at the time, and we used his equipment to plant and harvest it. And then I picked up some more rented ground. And it got to the point where I was so busy that I wouldn't have time for any other full-time job right now.”

At a time when commodity prices were crumbling, Spoor knew just growing corn and soybeans wouldn’t work.

“So, I was looking for a specialty crop,” he says. “I thought about vegetables or sweet corn, but I didn't have time to sit by a roadside stand all day. I was going to college classes every afternoon and morning. So, I thought, ‘Well, popcorn might work.’”

While he knew he could grow it, he needed to build a market to sell it.

“So, I grew a few acres and started walking into grocery stores getting it sold, and it continued to expand from there.”

Being resourceful didn’t just work for finding buyers, but also in finding land.

“I got really creative Facebook, Craigslist ads,” remembers Spoor.

Turning to social media and the web worked, and he found land to farm, even if it was several miles away.

“It was about 20 miles away,” says Spoor. “But I just wanted to farm more than I wanted to eat or breathe. That's all I wanted to do my whole life. And a guy saw my Facebook ad and gave me a call and I rented it.”

40 acres there and a few more acres down the road created a positive scenario, as the acres started to add up. 

“That second year I farmed, I had about 120 acres,” he says. “And then I’ve continued to grow.”

While Spoor is seeing growth, it’s happened in moderation.

“I try to not take on too much at once, but I’m to the point where I have a decent line of used equipment to put the crop in,” he says.

Buying used equipment is just one way Spoor keeps his costs down. 

“When I started the popcorn operation, I bought a shipping container off Craigslist trying to keep my overhead low,” says Spoor. “And we put popcorn in there, and then I was using a spare bedroom at my parents’ house to package and do my paperwork. And we've way outgrown that.”

Today, he has a direct-to-consumer popcorn business, farms row crops and just this year, took over a seed dealership. It’s all growth that only occurred because he’s resourceful.

“It's more people than I can count that I got advice from growing up,” says Spoor. “Some kids love sports, and they know every single baseball or football player or superheroes. My superheroes were my neighbors. They were the farmers that I’d go and ride with after school. I mean, I looked up to them. I just inhaled every bit of information they gave me about farming, because I wanted to do exactly what they were doing.”

From borrowing tools he couldn’t afford at the time, to a community willing to rally around their own, Spoor says without that support, he wouldn’t be farming today.

“A quote that I kind of like to live by is ‘Dreams only work if you do,’” says Spoor. “If you're not willing to go put in the work for yourself, no one's going to hand it to you. So, just wake up in the morning, and I think about what can I do to help pursue my dream?”

Spoor’s sprightliness and positive outlook are met with a realistic view.

“Before I can buy land, I have to be able to afford pay for it,” says Spoor. “And so that's a few years down the road.”

Spoor says his parents are huge supporters, and that support extends for miles.

“During the busy season, spring and harvest, I normally have one or two part-time guys. And then in the fall when we're picking popcorn, the local FFA chapter gets involved. And I’ll have five or 10 guys from the local FFA chapter come out, and we'll pick about 15,000 popcorn ears over a couple days span.”

Spoor says at only 23, he’s learned several valuable lessons.

“I really rely on advice from other people who are in positions where I want to be eventually,” says Spoor. “So local farmers, my banker, I take advice from all of them and try to fit it into the puzzle piece. That's my puzzle, and I use that to grow.”

And grown he has. This first-generation farmer continues to learn while harvesting happiness along the way.

Additional "Farming the First Generation" Stories:

Growth in Moderation Helps First-Generation Farmer Jesse Daniels Focus on the Future 


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