PRINCETON — The Bureau County Farm Bureau is 100 years strong ... and counting.
The year-long celebration of the Bureau County Farm Bureau began in January at the group’s 99th annual meeting, at which several past presidents of the group shared their memories. Several events are planned for the year as the local Farm Bureau celebrates its centennial year.
Bureau County Farm Bureau manager Jill Frueh said the organization began 100 years ago with a meeting to inform farmers about important information for them. After that meeting, a group of farmers got together and decided to form a group, which started out in 1914 as the Bureau County Agriculture Improvement Association. The name of the group was changed in 1916 to Bureau County Farm Bureau. It’s an interesting bit of information that the Bureau County Farm Bureau is actually older than the Illinois Farm Bureau, which was formed in 1916, Frueh said.
Through its 100 years, the purpose of the Bureau County Farm Bureau has remained unchanged, she added.
‘We started out 100 years ago by representing the farmers’ interests, providing them information and helping them to become more profitable,” Frueh said. “If there was some sort of disease or political issue, we would make the farmer aware of it. We would help them to understand it and learn how to overcome it. We worked for the good of the farmer. That’s how we started, and that’s what we continue to do.”
It’s important to note the Bureau County Farm Bureau is not just for farmers. Currently, the local Farm Bureau has 3,700 members with about 1,300 of them being farmers, Frueh said. For the purpose of membership, a farmer is defined as someone who earns $2,500 gross income annually from any type of farm product. Non-farmer members are associate members.
There are many benefits to being members and associate members of the Farm Bureau, including a local discount club, financial benefits, trips and educational programs. When you get right down to it, every consumer is involved in agriculture, she said.
Looking at the group’s impact on the Bureau County community for the past 100 years, Frueh said the organization takes seriously its role in helping people to see and understand from where their food comes. The local Farm Bureau does several educational outreaches, like its Adopt a Classroom and Adopt a Legislator programs, which is an outreach to Chicago area children and legislators. For 25 years, the Farm Bureau has worked with other agriculture organizations and presented the Ag Fair for fourth-graders throughout the county. The Farm Bureau wants to expand its Ag in the Classroom program and improve agriculture literary not just for children but for adults as well, she said.
Another role of the Bureau County Farm Bureau is to help young farmers become established and profitable. Frueh said the Farm Bureau and its members are there to help the young farmer with needed resources and knowledge and encouragement.
This will be a busy year for the Bureau County Farm Bureau as it celebrates its centennial. The group had a presence at the recent Beef and Ag Day with a Barnyard Discoveries program for children and families. The Farm Bureau is working on its 100th anniversary book and also with the Bureau County Historical Society on an interview project involving residents, both farmers and non-farmers, around the county.
Also, the Farm Bureau is working with the local library on some educational programs and will have an entry in this year’s Homestead Festival parade in September.
During the next six months, members of the Bureau County Farm Bureau will write monthly articles for the Bureau County Republican detailing various aspects of the organization.
The centennial year will culminate in January 2015 with its 100th annual meeting.
“The idea is that we are not just to have a 100th Celebration Day but to have a 100th Celebration Year,” Frueh said. “And, we are celebrating not just our past, but we are also celebrating what we can and will do in the future.”
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