Editor’s note: This is the second monthly installment in a series celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Bureau County Farm Bureau.
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bureau County Farm Bureau, it’s important to look back at the very beginning and how this grassroots organization began. Following are portions of excerpts of the 100 Year Anniversary Book which will be in print later this winter.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was apparent that life in rural America was changing. Problems of a more complex nature were confronting the farming community. No longer could individual farmers solve their problems alone, as in pioneer days. Throughout the nation, farmers were getting together to discuss common problems and search for solutions. The passage of the Smith Lever Act gave impetus to interest in group action. Farmers who had been active in the Farmers Institutes took the lead in meeting to discuss the feasibility of forming a farm organization.
Early in February 1914, J.W. Coddington, secretary of the Farmers’ Institute of Bureau County, called a meeting of Bureau County farmers, held in the Princeton City Hall.
The Rev. A.W. Otis explained the meeting’s purpose was to discuss reasons for having a “county agriculturist” in Bureau County and to work together to find solutions to common problems such as maintenance of soil fertility and marketing of agricultural products. Directors were appointed to represent each township. These directors, in turn, appointed a slate of officers to begin the work of an active farmers’ organization.
The local organization became known as the Bureau County Agricultural Improvement Association with the executive committee authorized to incorporate the organization under the laws of the state of Illinois, so business could be transacted legally. This committee was authorized to sign a contract with C.J. Mann, county agriculturalist, as soon as corporate papers were received, and an office was secured over Delano’s store at 603 S. Main St. in Princeton.
Next, a committee was formed to secure financial aid from the Commercial Club of Princeton. They authorized to incorporate the Agricultural Improvement Association of Bureau County, under the laws of the state of Illinois.
In June 1914, the committee was authorized to receive $1,200 per year from the federal government for support of the Agricultural Improvement Association of Bureau County.
Hog cholera serum was distributed to the members in October. Educational programs were prepared for the winter months. The bylaws were printed in pamphlet form and a copy sent to each member. The growth of the organization had grown enough that committees of membership, finance, publicity and resolutions were established.
By the autumn of 1916, the Bureau County Improvement Association decided to reorganize the association by June 1, 1917, under the name of Bureau County Farm Bureau. This involved drafting a new constitution to embody changes necessary to carry on business and increase membership. Dues were set at $10 per year. It was decided to have four officers: President, vice president, secretary and treasurer, and that the president should appoint members to following committees to assist the county agriculturalist, later called farm adviser, in his work: Finance, purchasing, crop improvement, livestock, dairy and membership. Later, it was also decided to hire an associate adviser for Bureau County who would devote his time to livestock work.
In the spring of 1918, delegates were elected to attend a state meeting in Peoria. During the winter of 1918-19, no regular meetings of the executive committee were held due to the flu epidemic. As the decade drew to a close, the Farm Bureau movement was growing at national, state and local levels. Services to members were expanding, especially in the areas of marketing techniques, large volume purchasing and information dissemination. The Illinois Agricultural Association was organized by the county Farm Bureau in the state in 1919.
In 1918, the Bureau County Farm Bureau offices moved from 528 S. Main St. in Princeton to 1019 N. Main St. In time, an annex was added to this building, and the basement was remodeled. Alfreda Thulean was hired as secretary in 1920 and continued with both the Extension and the Farm Bureau until her retirement in 1962.
In the 1920-30s, the local Farm Bureau continued increasing services for its members, such as insurance coverage and cooperative purchasing efforts of petroleum services and other agricultural needs. These companies continues to gain ground and are now known as Country Financial and FS.
Today membership services continue to grow as we represent more than 3,700 members and their families in Bureau County.