Patchwork Links Hog Farmers
by Paul Sturtz,
Patchwork Family Farms, the economic development project of MRCC (Missouri Rural Crisis Center), has stepped up its marketing efforts for family farm products sold directly to consumers and grocery stores.
Patchwork was formed in 1992 in response to increased corporate control of farming in Missouri and the subsequent loss of family farmers in the state. In 1995 alone, 19% of Missouri hog farmers were forced out of business.
Patchwork focuses on pork products because of hogs' historical significance in Missouri as 'the mortgage-lifter," a sure-fire source of revenue. In recent years, many hog farmers were offered a devil's bargain -- either get out of the business or mortgage the farm to pay for costly contract buildings. Patchwork offers farmers and consumers a choice. Farmers are asked to serve on the project's steering committee and to adhere to standards that ensure that neither the animals nor the environment is exploited. Hogs are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. They are given room to roam around, plenty of sunshine, fresh air and quality feed. These practices are in sharp contrast to corporate farms where hogs are packed closely in tight-fitting metal cages and shot up with antibiotics and other drugs routinely.
Alice Recker, the new project coordinator, has given Patchwork a major boost. The products are gaining recognition at the Columbia farmer's market and will be debuting soon at Kansas City's City Market. The project is also making valuable contacts at local supermarkets, churches in Kansas City and health food stores.
Recker is confident that the project will meet all of the goals set by the producers for 1997. It includes: hiring a project coordinator, further promoting the project in Kansas City and a rural community, completing a business plan,, bringing on two to three new producers and developing structures for producer recruitment and investment.
As a result of widespread concern about supporting corporate pork, Patchwork has kicked off a campaign: "Stop factory farms at the grocery store ... and help family farmers stay on the land." Patchwork allows people to eat pork with a good conscience.
Those wishing to purchase Patchwork pork, should call 573-449-1336 for more information regarding products and prices.