Missouri had 106,797 farms in 2002, according to the Census of Agriculture. Eighty-five percent had sales of less than $50,000 a year. Corporate holdings with sales of $500,000 or more were 1.4 percent of Missouri farms, yet they accounted for 40 percent of the state’s commodity sales. This means Missouri has many small, family-owned farms – the second-largest number in the country after Texas – that could follow organic practices.
The state Department of Agriculture reports that there are more than 160 organic-food producers and processors in the state. Moreover, the state has registered 26,426 acres that can be used to grow organically labeled food.
“These are folks that brought a lot of social capital with them,” said Mary Hendrickson, assistant professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “They can interact with the people who will be their customers.”
Hendrickson stressed that many customers have enough income to pay higher prices for locally grown food. They buy fresh chickens, eggs, vegetables, fruit and berries from people they know, people like them in what they want on their tables.