William Hirth

MFA Incorporated — Inducted in 2004

William Hirth’s experience growing up on a farm made him aware of the weak economic plight of farmers.  He gained a reputation as a speaker and a writer.  Educated as an attorney, Mr. Hirth decided not to practice law because he was so concerned about the unfair economic conditions.  Instead he directed his talents toward helping farmers organize.  

 

In 1908, Mr. Hirth published the first issue of The Missouri Farmer and Breeder – what is now Today’s Farmer.  He used his editorial platform to call for the formation of farm clubs.  In the November 1911 edition, Hirth published his first article on cooperatives.  Starting with the first club formed in 1914 in Chariton County, farm clubs began to spring up across the state.  Mr. Hirth served as a clearinghouse for the clubs, collecting group orders and submitting them en masse to manufacturers for tremendous discounts.  He also encouraged farmers to market their grain and livestock cooperatively. 

 

It was the beginning of what was to become a successful farm purchasing and marketing cooperative as well as an influential farm political organization – the Missouri Farmers Association.  In less than three years MFA had nearly 50,000 members who staged a feat of organization that has never been equaled before or since.  As the founder of MFA Incorporated and as its first president, from 1914 until his death in 1940, Hirth guided MFA from meager beginnings to become the largest cooperative business in the Midwest.

 

visionary leadership, for nurturing the cooperative movement, belief in the power of group action, and lifelong dedication to promote the interests of farmers as a cooperative founder