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Working together for 100 years

Have you ever wondered how powerful one person can be if they work together with others? Is there really such a thing as “strength in numbers?” I say most certainly, and I will tell you why.

Throughout the decades, visionary farmers have provided powerful ideas and drive to create a definitive voice for farmers, and the premier farm organization that has helped improve the business of farming and the quality of rural life.

In February 1914 the leaders of Bureau County founded the Bureau County Agricultural Improvement Association. The name was changed in 1916 to the Bureau County Farm Bureau after the formation of the Illinois Agricultural Association (Illinois Farm Bureau).

The statewide organization hit its stride in the 1920s and 1930s, and throughout the remainder of the century has been the political and social force in rural Illinois ... all because of volunteer leadership - farmers working together to improve their farms and communities!

Active in politics to ensure farmers got a fair return on their investment, and that rural communities received necessary services, Farm Bureau helped bring improved roads to an undeveloped rural Illinois. Farm Bureau and its university and government partners helped stamp out the dreaded hog cholera in the late 1960s that constantly threatened the hog industry throughout the decades. This partnership also helped end the fly plague of the 1940s and 1950s. Farm Bureau still supports animal agriculture through the support of the Livestock Management Facilities Act and other numerous projects through the Illinois Livestock Development Group.

And Farm Bureau has always championed finding new uses for farm products to help improve farm income; products from soybeans such as soypaint, and corn by-products such as ethanol, known as “hi-ball” gas in the 1930s are some examples, but many more come to mind if you start to read any ingredient label these days. Support for the use of our home-grown products continues to grow.

People coming together for a purpose has always been a cornerstone for Farm Bureau’s existence. So through the Rural Youth League and the Home Bureau, Farm Bureau provided educational and social opportunities for its members. Farm Bureau helped lay the foundation for 4-H, and continues to bring doctors to rural Illinois communities through scholarship programs.

The organization has improved rural life by bringing people together from around the state through social events such as the statewide Farm Bureau picnic, the Farm Bureau tent at the state fair, and the IFB sports festival - known as the “world’s largest rural sports pageant.” Farm Bureau even had its own baseball league with county teams that competed nationally!

These programs have all passed with time, but Young Leader Committee social outings, statewide commodity and governmental conferences and Industry-based tours are all attracting numerous members each year.

Many Bureau County families have been impacted by the organization over the years. Leaders have worked diligently to represent the interest and well-being of all members. This occurred through policy discussions, legislative visits and educational programs, to name a few. I have also heard many stories about weddings, graduations and parties held in the auditorium of the current building. And stories of now grown farmers who, at one time, played with tractors in far corners of the meeting rooms as their parents attended Farm Bureau functions, never grow old.

As the Bureau County Farm Bureau approaches its 100-year anniversary of serving its members, we want to again ask for our members’ help. We are in search of paraphernalia, photos and personal stories about what Farm Bureau means to you and your family. We are in the process of compiling documentation for our celebrations in 2014.

In addition, if you have a passion for history, a love for the organization and some free time on your hands, we would like to invite you to become involved in our 100 Year Celebration Committee. Anyone interested in helping gather photos, share stories and even dig through old minutes are asked to contact the office to offer your assistance. We will host our next planning meeting at 9 a.m. June 3 at the Farm Bureau.

As we begin to celebrate Farm Bureau’s rich history we must remember how it all started. There, in fact, has been strength in numbers and will continue to be as we move into the future.

Jill Frueh is the manager at the Bureau County Farm Bureau.

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