On March 14, 1914, a small group of farmers gathered in a one-room schoolhouse near Brunswick, Mo., and decided to pool their buying power for 1,150 pounds of baler twine. They saved $400.

That group was the first of several farm clubs that eventually combined to form the Missouri Farmers Association.

MFA Inc., as it now is known, was the brainchild of William Hirth, who grew up on an Audrain County farm. Hirth advocated for farmer cooperatives and organizations through his agricultural newspaper and eventually became MFA’s first president.

About 150 people gathered March 10 to celebrate the company’s centennial at its Columbia offices on Ray Young Drive. Still a farmer cooperative, MFA has grown into a $1.5 billion company that has become a key economic driver, both individually and through the other ventures it spawned (including Shelter Insurance, which began as MFA Mutual Insurance Co. in 1946, and MFA Oil, which started 15 years after that first 1914 meeting).

MFA Inc. has stuck to its core business of buying and selling supplies to its farmer-owners, and today it has become “one of the largest and most influential cooperatives in the nation,” according to MFA President and CEO Bill Streeter.

Also at the ceremony, Streeter unveiled plans for a new plaza on the company’s campus between the headquarters of the two sister companies: MFA Inc. and MFA Oil.

“Both companies are busy planning what we are going to do for the next 100 years,” Streeter said.

COLUMBIA TRIBUNE

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