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A Dozen St. Louis Regional Farms Receive Publicity Boost From Environmental Campaign

Josh Davis tends to his American mulefoot hogs on his farm in Pocahontas, Illinois on September 15, 2018.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Green Finned Hippy Farm in Pocahontas, Illinois, is one of a dozen farms that have joined the Known & Grown campaign to connect people, restaurants and grocery stores with farmers who use environmentally responsible practices.

At the end of 2018, Green Finned Hippy Farm in Pocahontas, Illinois, decided to stop selling its meat and poultry at farmers markets.

The reason, according to co-owner Alicia Davis, is she and her partner Joshua were spending a large amount of time driving their products to markets and explaining the farm’s practices, but only a few patrons would actually buy anything. They decided to pursue other ways of reaching customers, which included joining the Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Known & Grown campaign that launched this month.

Known & Grown promotes Green Finned Hippy Farm and 11 other farms in Missouri and southern Illinois that use environmentally responsible agriculture practices.

“We’re looking for that person who is unhappy with the selection at Whole Foods and they want to connect directly with the type of farmer that not only is local but is also ethical,” Davis said. “Because Known & Grown has inspected those farms and held them to a certain standard, [customers] can trust those farms.”

To qualify for the Known & Grown branding campaign, farmers need to demonstrate they’re committed to conservation and reducing the impacts of climate change. It’s not enough to just be local and organic, said Melissa Vatterott, food and farm director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

“We are not allowing synthetic chemicals to be used. And farmers need to be using at least two conservation agriculture practices, which indicates that they’re committed to soil health and water quality,” Vatterott said.

Green Finned Hippy Farm meets the campaign’s criteria for livestock farms. It raises and promotes public awareness of an endangered species, the American mulefoot hog. It also practices rotational grazing, which means the farmers place the chickens on a new area of pasture every two weeks, Davis said.

“We’re not packing as many animals onto one piece [of land] never to be moved again,” Davis said. “That is really the difference in taste that you’re going to experience from pasture-rotational farming. They don’t live in their own filth; they’re able to be antibiotic-free, and the taste is more intense and deep in the flavor of each product.”

Other farms that have been approved to participate in Known & Grown include HartBeet Farm in Lincoln County and Good Life Growing, which converts vacant properties in north and east St. Louis into micro-farms.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment published a study in 2018 that found many consumers and buyers are unaware of local farms that use conservation practices. MCE plans to add more people to the effort. The organization will hire a coordinator next month to promote the campaign’s approved farms to restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses in the region.

While buying from local farmers reduces the mileage to someone’s plate, customers should consider more than just distance if they want to make environmentally conscious choices, Vatterott said.

“Quite frankly, there are farms even within 30 minutes of St. Louis that raise animals with industrial agriculture operations, where the animals are kept in confinement and where they never get to be outside,” Vatterott said. “We know the consumers, restaurant chefs and small grocery store owners want something different when they say they’re committed to local food. So we wanted to make this brand to help people be able to make that distinction.”

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.