Vice President, Outreach and Engagement
Joe Maxwell grew up on a family farm in the small town of Rush Hill, Missouri, the son of a hard-working family farmer.
Today, as Vice President of Outreach and Engagement for The HSUS, Maxwell works directly with family farmers, helping them organize into producer groups to open direct markets for their own products.
Maxwell is a former president of the Association of Family Farmers, an organization associated with the Agriculture of the Middle Project, and is a member of the Organization for Competitive Markets and the Missouri Farmers Union.
As a fourth-generation farm boy, Maxwell learned from his grandfather and father the value of being a good steward of the land and the animals you raise.
Today, Maxwell and his twin brother Steve carry on these values on the same family farm. Along with more than 50 other family farmers, they sell pork certified by the Global Animal Partnership to Whole Foods and other markets.
During the farm crisis in the 1980s, Maxwell realized that it takes more than just being a good farmer with good values. He learned you had to focus your hard work not only on being a good steward on the farm, but also on the political process—both at the capital and in the field, with grassroots advocacy.
Maxwell began building his well-known skills by working as a field coordinator in campaigns throughout the 80s. By the 90s, he was a leading campaign coordinator for candidates and advocacy organizations. During this time, he was a field coordinator for Congressman Dick Gephardt.
In the 90s, Maxwell put his organizing and communication skills to the test for himself in a race that everyone said he could not win. He won, becoming a Missouri state representative.
In the mid-90s, in a special election—with only six weeks to run and starting out 23 points down—Maxwell once again proved himself by putting in place a winning strategy and making it happen on Election Day. In 2000, when other rural candidates were struggling in Missouri, Maxwell produced a strong, solid win as lieutenant governor.
During his time as an elected official, Maxwell did not lose sight of the value that family farms hold in our society, in our economy, and in our environment.
He passed many bills that supported added-value agriculture projects and programs for the family farmers, while working against large-scale, industrialized farms, which he sees as harmful to the rural economy, the environment, and the animals. To Maxwell, they clearly are not good stewards.
He was one of only a few legislators to pass a state ban on packer ownership of livestock and a state Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program.
Since leaving office in 2005, Maxwell has continued to fight for those values he learned at a young age on his family's farm. He focuses on sustainable agriculture practices, which include sustainability of the farm, the rural economy, the environment, and the welfare of the animals.
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