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CCFB News» March 2019

Downwind“The Building of an Organization”

03/01/2019 @ 7:30 am | By Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

100 years “old”. 100 years “young”. Which is it? Time is relative, I suppose, to what you are comparing the 100 years to…

  • The dinosaurs from the Jurassic age lived 150 million years ago… 100 years is young
  • The adult mayfly, upon hatching from a mountain stream, lives for about a day… 100 years is old
  • The Incas lived 5000 years ago… 100 years is young
  • My grandson is one year, four months old… 100 years is ancient! (He will be calling me ancient also in about a year)


Cook County Farm Bureau will reach this milestone in about a year, March of 2020. Young or old, 100 years of age is a nice round milestone number.  The dinosaurs and the Incas would probably snort, but we kinda think that 100 years is a big deal!


Leading up to this event, the planning and prepping by the Cook County Farm Bureau board, committees and staff has ramped up with the goal of creating a celebration worthy of 100 years. In preparation for various events, activities and materials, we have been reading minutes, opening boxes in the archives room (very dusty), studying (and laughing at) old photos, reviewing issues of the publication (was the world black-and-white), seeking organizational history and recording member stories that capture the longevity, success and human side of your County Farm Bureau organization.


As we approach our 100-year celebration, we plan on devoting space through The Co-Operator by taking a look at the life of your Cook County Farm Bureau and sharing some of the successes and challenges your organization has faced. For those of you that define reading history as “snooze time”, I’m not sure how to help you.


Here’s the brief startup history of your Cook County Farm Bureau…


Back over 100 years ago, farming in the early 1900s was changing significantly with wonderful new technology such as the tractor (no more finicky horses to feed), better seeds, improved knowledge about soils and better methods to grow crops and livestock. Much of the knowledge was being generated through research and studies from land-grant universities such as the University of Illinois. The creation of the Cooperative Extension Service brought farm advisors out to rural areas to share information and teach farmers about these new and innovative ways of farming.


In 1912, with the help of a University of Illinois farm advisor, the DeKalb County Farm Bureau was formed. The group then hired their own farm advisor to help members. The County Farm Bureau system was born!


In 1916, following the formation of a number of County Farm Bureaus with assistance from farm advisors, the group decided to form the Illinois Agricultural Association to represent farmers on the state level. The Illinois Farm Bureau system was born!


In 1919, following the formation of a number of State Farm Bureaus, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) was formed to represent farmers on the national level. The National Farm Bureau system was born!


Finally, seeing the successful organization formations happening around them, local Cook County farmers talked about forming a County Farm Bureau in the urban area. On March 15, 1920, 250 area farmers traveled to the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago for an organizational meeting to create the Cook County Farm Bureau.  The County Farm Bureau was born!


The historical documents about the early days of Cook County Farm Bureau left me with the following impressions and details:

  • The enthusiasm of forming a new organization was on full display with many eager leaders.
  • Chicago played a significant role in early Farm Bureau development with AFBF being formed in Chicago, Illinois Farm Bureau being housed in Chicago and the majority of Cook County meetings taking place at the offices of the Illinois Farm Bureau at 130 N. Wells St. in Chicago.
  • There were many challenges to building an organization from scratch (I can only imagine all the frustrations):
    • Collecting promissory notes in the form of membership dues from members
    • Retaining members and recruiting new members
    • Finding suitable office space
    • Purchasing equipment
    • Hiring a farm advisor and support staff and paying them on time
    • Developing board bylaws, procedures and actions
    • Prioritizing issues and programs to work on


I do not know what the odds of success or failure were 100 years ago for an organization. Today, so many startup companies, for profit and non-for-profit fail within their first 5 years. A successful Farm Bureau was certainly no given.


Obviously, what the CCFB founders did in those early days had a significant impact in the development and growth of the organization initially as well as long-term. Now, 100 years later, we have the opportunity to evaluate and celebrate!


The founders did well!


Side bar box…

A glimpse at the Cook County Farm Bureau during its first decade of life:

  • 250 farmers from throughout Cook County ventured to the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago on March 15, 1920 to participate in the formation of an organization.
  • HA Dooley was nominated and unanimously elected the 1st president of the Cook County Farm Bureau because “Mr. Dooley had led the organization committee along successful lines”. “All Mr. Dooley asked in response was the wholehearted support of the committee to make the Cook County Farm Bureau second to none in the state”.
  • On May 13, 1920, the organization bought a Ford touring car for Mr. C.E. Durst, newly hired farm advisor, to use and discussed car insurance for the vehicle (5 years before the Illinois Farm Bureau created an insurance company that would become Country Financial!) Mr. Durst (salary $4,000) spent a lot of time in that first year getting out trying to meet with farmers through a series of evening meetings.
  • Mr. Blesch of Lemont was “ashamed that their township’s Farm Bureau membership was so small”.
  • An audit committee was formed in 1921 to review the finances and accounting practices of the organization.
  • The Board created office hours for the Farm Advisor C.E. Durst - Thursdays at Blue Island and Saturdays in Arlington Heights. He requested that a motion or sliding picture machine would greatly aid him in making educational lectures.
  • Big issues in those first 10 years included…
    • Cooperating with the University of Illinois on insect control
    • Supporting a livestock survey statewide
    • Creating Boys and Girls Pig clubs
    • Passage of a law to exempt farmers from having to pay a license to sell their own produce
    • Seeking reduced freight rates for shipping line stone and farm commodities
    • Establishing a relief fund for children in Europe
    • Investigating trucking conditions in Cook County
    • Manure handling and garbage burning on Cook County truck gardens
    • Improving Cook County railroad crossings
    • Investigating the development of a Cook County Fair
    • Seeking improved Cook County taxes and farm assessment for area farmers
    • Creation of membership picnics and field days for members
    • Requesting for financial assistance from the Cook County Board to provide education regarding the destructive nature of the European corn borer
    • Lobbying from the state $30,000 as a part of an Illinois bill to establish a truck garden experimental station in Cook County
    • Cooperative buying of boxes of asparagus
    • Local dairy production and marketing improvements
    • Cleaning up Thorn Creek which was badly polluted
    • The eradication of tuberculosis in cattle in Cook County
    • Working on control of the onion maggot to save onion growers money
    • The organization of spray rings for fruit trees to grow more and better apples
    • In 1925, the board had difficulty meeting quorums requirements for board meetings and had a discussion regarding whether Farm Bureau should continue as an organization.
    • We especially liked this resolution approved by the CCFB Board on October 10th, 1927 which led to the creation of a Protective Association (noted in the minutes was a motion to pay $15 for petty larceny and $25 for grand larceny)



Next month, we will knock the dust off some more of the organizational history archives to take a look at 1930-39!

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