Developing Alternative Distribution Networks to Groceries and Food Cooperatives for Sustainably Produced Missouri Grown Food

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $97,931.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Federal Funds: $7,804.00
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Russell Kremer
Missouri Farmers Union

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, millet, peanuts, potatoes, rice, rye, sorghum (milo), soybeans, wheat
  • Fruits: apples, berries (other), cherries, grapes, peaches, berries (strawberries), melons
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, asparagus, beans, beets, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, onions, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, trees
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: homeopathy
  • Crop Production: application rate management, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, participatory research, study circle, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: economic threshold, mulches - killed, sanitation
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter, nutrient mineralization
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, public participation, urban/rural integration, analysis of personal/family life, community services, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures


    After thorough research determined the demand and need for sustainably produced food by rural grocers and smaller independent retailers in the St. Louis area, several farmers and farm cooperatives in the region were organized into a marketing distribution network. This cooperative system appears to be a solution to those smaller producers and producer groups who have limited time and resources to effectively market and distribute their production. A sustainable certification brand, Heritage Acres, and a uniform set of purposes, principles, and production standards were established. Outreach and education followed the establishment of the distribution network and participants learned how this community food system could be replicated.


    Traditional commodity farmers have seen their marketing choices and their profit opportunities severely dwindle during the last several years, prompting farmers to embrace a new vision of building direct relationships with consumers and establishing a committed, direct marketplace for their products. At the same time, food cooperatives, St. Louis area independent grocers, and rural stores are searching for sustainably produced, family farm food to use as a marketing niche for their survival. Farmers, as producers, have limited time and resources to effectively market and distribute, and also face market entry barriers such as exclusive arrangements many stores have with large suppliers. Smaller independent retailers and food cooperatives are often denied affordable service and delivery by the large corporate distribution system, which are becoming increasingly prevalent.

    This project was aimed at helping farmers capture more of the food dollar and by accommodating the smaller grocers’ need of accessing local, wholesome food by establishing an effective marketing and distribution network. The establishment of this network will encourage more farmer-owned cooperatives to enter into community based, value added processing activity, and greatly improve the self-reliance of rural communities. Community based distribution networks can be easily replicated throughout Missouri.

    Project objectives:

    1) To research the potential for marketing sustainably produced, Missouri grown food through small, flexible distribution networks to supply independently-owned supermarkets and food cooperatives in central and east central Missouri. Target audience: Farmers, small food processors, new generation cooperative members, and rural/urban retailers.

    2) To develop a cooperative network to distribute food products from individual farmers and agripreneurs, farmer-owned cooperatives, and small processing operations to food outlets in central and east central Missouri. More specifically, to develop one distribution network to serve groceries and food cooperatives located in St. Louis and surrounding areas to provide meats, fresh produce, and selected processed foods from already existing farms and small processors. This network will serve as a model for other distribution networks in the state. Target audience: Farmers, small food processors and rural/urban food retailers.

    3) To conduct workshops and state seminars under the auspices of the Missouri Farmers Union, utilizing project results in developing small distribution networks across the state. Target audience: Farmers interested in diversifying markets, and independent rural and inner-urban retailers looking for new alliances.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.