It was a bow hunter who first came up with the idea – a way for Missouri deer hunters to share the bounty of their hunt, with those in need. Since 1992, the year Share the Harvest began, the result has been and continues to be, thousands of pounds of ground venison that go to those in need each hunting season.
Share the Harvest is a program that involves the cooperation of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, private meat processors, charitable distribution agencies and deer hunters throughout the state. Hunters take deer they are willing to donate to an approved meat processor, and the venison is then donated to a local charity. That agency will then distribute it to those in need, folks who are eager to have the extra protein source.  The Conservation Department characterizes Share the Harvest as a "Win-Win-Win" program.
Laclede County Department of Conservation agent Walt Hutton has seen the growing popularity of this program since its inception.  “Laclede County has participated in Share the Harvest since it began,” he explained. “That first year, 1992, we only saw 220 pounds donated. The reason was because back then, the hunter still had to pay the full cost of the processing, even though the meat was to be donated.  Here in Lebanon, the late Ed Fleshman, who was an active member of our local Lebanon Area Bow Hunters Club, thought we ought to be able to do better than that. He went to local businesses for donations, made through the Bow Hunters Club to get the processing paid for. The next year we saw 3,000 pounds of venison come to Crosslines through the program, and it’s been going strong ever since.”
For the last few years, the Conservation Federation of Missouri has agreed to pay a set amount to approved processors for each full deer donated to Share the Harvest. Since that amount still does not cover the full expense, in many counties, like Laclede, private business and  other organizations continue to pay the remaining costs.
“We’ve seen the amount of venison donated each year, vary, due to a couple of factors,” Hutton continued. “The No. 1 reason has to do with the deer population each year and the overall number of deer taken. We generally see from 4,500 to close to 6,000 pounds donated to Share Your Harvest in Laclede County each year. The other things that limit us here is what the local processors can handle. Approved processors must be able to meet state and Federal inspection regulations. In our county, we have two processors that work with Share the Harvest. We generally fill all the available space that Crosslines has for the processed venison, and that helps 700 to 800 families each year.”
 Statewide, last year’s Share the Harvest campaign brought in over a quarter of a million pounds of mostly ground venison. The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri both offer information on their websites as to how to establish a local Share the Harvest program. Visit for more information.


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