The Madison County Chamber of Commerce met for its monthly meeting, Sept. 5 at Dodson Orchards.
On behalf of her entire family, Jennifer Dodson welcomed all the members to the family farm.
Jennifer and Steve Dodson, along with their three children, moved to the area 7 years ago chasing after Steve's dream to own a farm.
"His father raised cattle in Union and he hated city life," Jennifer said. "So we went on an adventure to look for a farm."
Jennifer said it took two and a half years to find the right location, but as soon as they drove up the driveway they knew this was the one.
"The intention was not to do weddings," Jennifer said. "We had no idea we would be hosting events."
Jennifer said the farm started off as apple orchards with more than 1,000 apple trees. She said there is currently not a single apple tree on the property.
The farm has now hosted close to 200 weddings and has become a destination for many from out of town.
Jennifer said the buildings on site, including the barn, are all original to the property and they give their clients a rustic farm/barn wedding feel.
"This was a huge, huge undertaking and we are very proud of what we've done in the very short amount of time we've been here," Jennifer said. "We are basically what you call a full service wedding venue. We do the decorating, linens, catering, pretty much all of it accept DJ and photographer."
University of Missouri Extension 4-H Specialist Brad Coleman then spoke to the chamber regarding 4-H in the community.
"What does the University of Missouri Extension do and what can we offer you," Coleman said. "As a public school administrator I had no clue what the University of Missouri Extension did and I worked in public education for 30 years. Nobody ever came to see me about the 4-H clubs. Like many of you sitting here today, when I heard 4-H I thought those are the AG kids, the farmers, and that's not what it's about."
Coleman said he is working to change that by reaching out to the schools, parents and students to let them know what is available and what opportunities 4-H and the University of Missouri Extension has to offer.
"We have over 100 different curriculum areas for students and youth throughout our area to become involved in," Coleman said. "Right now, here in Madison County, we only have one 4-H club and they are called the Fredericktown Farmers 4-H Club."
Coleman said part of his job is to come in and educate youth and adults about what they can do, what programming is offered and what they would like to see for youth.
"The whole purpose of 4-H is to teach leadership skills to young men and women and provide them with an outlet," Coleman said. "Right here in Madison County we have woodworking, cooking, arts and crafts, swine, horsemanship, beef, and photography."
Coleman said they are constantly looking for volunteers and special certifications are only required when instructing shooting and archery sports. The only requirement is to pass a background check.
The next meeting of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce will be at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 3 at Pinecrest Camp.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org