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Patchwork Spruces Up Image for Grocery Stores
New label and equipment enhances look

The importance of a sustainable local food network

Paul Sturtz
Columbia, Missouri

When Patchwork Family Farms, the economic development project of Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), first started selling pork at four grocery stores in Sedalia, Missouri, meat managers tried to break the news gently.

Yes, they could understand the environmental connotations of the label's green-on-white label. Problem was that in the meat case, green only meant one thing -- the color that meat changes to after it's been in the light too long. The professionals said "red looks healthy, blue looks clean.'' So with the help of Columbia artist Dennis Murphy, Patchwork producers recently revamped their pork labels, this time in a beautiful four-color process. The scene depicted is a rolling blue-green Missouri farm field, its diversified crops forming a patchwork in adjacent squares. The bright yellow sky serves as a background for the red Patchwork name with red barns dotting the landscape.

But it's with the tagline at the bottom that Patchwork announces its reason for being: "Raised by Missouri family farmers.'' Color changes were not the only lesson gleaned from MRCC's grocery experiences. Selling pork in the fresh meat case was much different than distributing it frozen through churches and food cooperatives, Patchwork's primary outlets. Ham steaks, for instance, needed an airtight vacuum seal only achieved through a more modern vacuum packer than the one previously used. Luckily, MRCC had been awarded $50,000 in Missouri neighborhood assistance program (NAP) tax credits. These 50 percent tax credits are given to companies or individuals making cash or equipment contributions to designated projects like Patchwork. In addition, contributors receive a federal tax deduction for giving to a non-profit company. At the end of December, Multivac Inc., a Kansas City equipment manufacturer gave Patchwork a new vacuum packer that immediately improved the shelf life and appearance of Patchwork ham steaks.

As consumers become more knowledgeable about the importance of a sustainable local food network, a niche is expanding for Patchwork pork. Restaurants and grocery stores are seeing that Missouri-grown bacon, sausage and ham steaks produced outside the factory system is appealing to a wide diversity of people. A popular Columbia breakfast restaurant, for instance, has contracted Patchwork to produce its 3.2 oz sausage patty. Those wishing to purchase Patchwork pork or contribute to the project under the NAP program should call MRCC's office at 573-449-1336 for more details.

Published in In Motion Magazine - July 13, 1997