Salus populi suprema lex esto, “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.”

Farmers were going out of business during the mid-1980s farm crisis; they were losing their land and going into foreclosure.

The turmoil gave rise to an ad hoc organization that worked to keep farmers on their land by all means at their disposal, from halting auctions to lobbying the state legislature. It was a difficult time. Since then, the organization, which became the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) in Columbia, hasn’t lost its focus on family farms and local control of issues surrounding them.

“We believe in independence,” MRCC Communications Director Tim Gibbons says. “We believe farmers should own and raise US livestock, not multi-national or foreign corporations.” Some poultry and pork, especially, are owned and raised by multinational corporations. Tim adds, “They should make the majority of decisions on their farms. Farmers need to be paid a price—they need to be paid cost of production plus a living wage.”

The MRCC champions independent family farms, regardless of size or production practices. Much of the membership consists of cattle and grain farmers, but the more than five thousand members statewide encompass crops that run the gamut. The MRCC approach boils down to local control. “We think that it’s best when government is closest to the people,” Tim says.

Often, the MRCC finds itself opposing some of the larger agriculture organizations in the state regarding legislative policy. Supporting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) over independent family farmers is an example, Tim says.

“We support the family farmer,” Tim says. “We’re supporting everything that touches the family farmer, which includes a food system that benefits consumers, that benefits our economy, that benefits our water, our air, the democratic process.”

Beyond legislative halls and since its beginning, MRCC has brought urban stakeholders together with farmers to talk. Their program, Growing the Local Food Chain in Missouri, reaches out to consumers and communities through farm camps, food in the classroom projects, and cooking demonstrations.

Jeff Jones, a fourth-generation farmer and owner of Jones Angus Farms in Callaway County, welcomed about thirty Farms Are For Everyone Farm Camp participants to his farm last fall. Jeff raises about three hundred head of Angus cattle. During the camp, kids, parents, and grandparents helped feed the cattle and learned how the feed was made and about the breeding program. They especially loved the tractors and other equipment.

“They got to participate because they wanted to, not because they had to. They were hungry to learn and participate, and I liked that a lot. I was tickled they were that enthused,” Jeff says.

The organization also works with its hog-farming members through Patchwork Family Farms, established by the MRCC in 1993. These independent hog farmers market pork products through shared production standards, such as livestock being raised outdoors without the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics or artificial growth proponents. The farmers receive a “floor” price, which means they never receive less than an agreed-upon price that will cover the cost of production plus a living wage.

“We knew that we needed to create an alternative market to the commodity market,” Tim says. “Patchwork was here before local was cool.”

Visit for more information.