Since 1993, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center has been organizing Patchwork Family Farms, an opportunity for Missouri hog producers to farm traditionally and independently while maintaining a rural way of life and supporting our local economies.
We do this by collectively marketing family-farm-raised pork to consumers (directly or through grocery stores and restaurants) in Missouri and around the U.S.
Patchwork Family Farms works to create a family farm alternative to the industrialized food system, and create community involvement and dialogue around agriculture policy.
Matt Beach, a fifth-generation hog farmer from Shelby County, MO, tells us why selling his hogs through Patchwork Family Farms makes his hog operation more economically feasible: “You can make it work if you have clear goals, good management and market opportunities that match your production practices,” says Matt. “And, Patchwork Family Farms has opened a new market for us.”
Why Patchwork Family Farms–
Historically in Missouri, hog production provided a healthy economic base for farm and rural economies when the animals were owned by large numbers of independent producers who sold their hogs in competitive, open markets. Under this structure, hog production provided income to farm families, which in turn fueled local economies through such things as buying inputs locally, supporting small businesses on Main Street and a diversified tax base to fund schools, roads and public services.
In the past 30 years the hog industry has changed radically, providing a prime example of who really benefits when an agricultural industry becomes consolidated and concentrated in the hands of a few corporations. Today most of the hogs in the United States are owned or controlled by enormous factory farm corporations (over 70% of the hog market is controlled by 4 global meatpackers—Smithfield Foods, Tyson, JBS & Hormel). Smithfield is owned by China’s largest meatpacker and JBS, a Brazilian company, is the world’s largest meatpacker. The facts show that this type of corporate concentration in agriculture forces farmers to receive less and less of the consumer dollar while driving up consumer prices at the grocery store.
As much as corporate ag supporters would like us believe that the industrialization of meat production is inevitable, more efficient and results in cheaper food, it simply isn’t true. Family farmers are still the most efficient producers of livestock, jobs, rural economic development and a healthy environment.
A closer look—Since 1985, we’ve lost 84% of hog producers nationwide, and almost 91% of hog farmers in Missouri:
From 1985-2016 (yearly average), the retail price of pork has increased 119%, from $1.71 to $3.75. During the same period, the hog producers’ share of the retail dollar has decreased 57%, from 49 cents to 21 cents.