When Yale Muhm served in Vietnam, he told his parents if he made it home, he would be interested in taking over their 400-acre farm in southern Warren County. Muhm survived his military service, graduated from medical school and began his career as a general and thoracic surgeon in the St. Louis area.
Yale met his wife Alicia in the operating room — he was the surgeon; she was his assisting surgical nurse. They married and raised four children. Alicia took over the farm operations with the goal of preserving the farm for their future generations.
Although they both grew up in the St. Louis area, the “country” called to them. The couple moved into a house on the farm in 1977 to make sure they could handle the drive to their jobs in the city. In 1978, they began building their family home on the Marthasville farm.
“We love the country and wildlife,” said Alicia Muhm. “We do anything we can to improve wildlife habitat and maintain green spaces.”
The Muhms were recently recognized by the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District for their volunteer work with Warren County schoolchildren. They are often seen at area farm tours teaching about soils and minerals, soil erosion or how a pig’s heart is used to correct problems with the human heart.
“Even (some) Warren County kids have never been fishing or been on a farm, even though they live in a rural area,” said Alicia. “We want to expose the kids to nature to stimulate their thought processes on the environment and conservation.”
The Muhms also were recognized for using a variety of conservation practices on their 1,100-acre farm, from creating wildlife food plots to establishing monarch butterfly habitats.
While developing their property, the Muhms have relied on a variety of programs to make the most of their land. They are members of the Ozark Regional Land Trust, which helped them create conservation easements to control future planning for the property.
Alicia said they have used the trust to divide their property into separate limited liability companies (LLCs) that will ensure their children will receive a section of the farm with certain restrictions to protect the property.
The Muhms enrolled in several programs to enhance their property for wildlife and other conservation practices. The Crop Reserve Program of the Farm Service Agency promotes putting part of the farm in grasses that will help improve poor soil. This improvement allowed the Muhms to use part of their land for a quail safe habitat.
The native grasses and wildflowers, such as blue stem and blazing star, help create a natural draw for pollinators. A variety of butterflies and bees drift through the fields of lavender, white and yellow blooms.
Monarch butterflies are attracted by warm season grass and wildflowers as described in guidelines from the Conservation Stewardship Program. The Muhms also use guidelines from the program to improve the timber on their property.
While conservation is key to developing the farm to its fullest, family is the real focus. With five grandchildren visiting the farm, the Muhms enjoy teaching them to fish in one of their ponds or just watch the deer or turkey that roam the fields.
“It’s peace of mind to know the land will be preserved forever,” said Alicia. “It’s the environmentally sound thing to have done.”