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CCFB News» June 2019

Downwind"Osage Orange and more CCFB history"

06/01/2019 @ 7:00 am | By Bob Rohrer, CAE,FBCM,Manager

At the time of the creation of the Cook County Farm Bureau (1920), many farms were diverse, being made up of different types of livestock including cows, sheep, pigs and horses, as well as a variety of crops including corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, oats and vegetables. To keep the livestock in the pasture or out of the crop fields, there were a variety of fencing options used by farmers including woven wire and barbed wire. However, an inexpensive fencing system popular in those days was the use of the Osage Orange tree (I always referred to it as a hedge tree).


Instead of your traditional fence, farmers took cuttings from an Osage Orange tree and planted them along the fence line in a tight, uniform row. These cuttings took root and sprouted into trees, effectively creating a living fence along the property line. In the 1800s, John Wright, editor of The Prairie Farmer magazine, described the hedge fence as “horse high, bull strong, pig tight”.


Back when I was a kid, many rural fence lines still featured the unmaintained remnants of the hedgerow planted many years prior. It was fascinating to see these various hedge trees lined up in a straight row on the edge of fields, 20 to 30 feet in height. I remember these trees having three distinct features:

  1. Needle sharp thorns 2 to 3 inches in length (they would pierce through the sole of a shoe)
  2. A round, but bumpy green fruit the size of a softball that was extremely hard (the hedge apple)
  3. Wood that was tough and gnarled (native Americans allegedly used them for bows and war clubs. My dad, the Farmer, thought they were better used as fence posts)


Yes, weapons of my youth!


Fruit and leaf of Osage orange plant from the PLANTS Database website. Photo by Jeff McMillian


Inevitably, my brothers and I were compelled to throw the hedge apples. This led to hedge ball wars. My brothers had strong throwing arms, much to my chagrin. This “sport” became a special version of dodgeball. When you got hit, you were truly out. I’m surprised this sport never caught on in the civilized world. Wisely, we created special rules such as you can’t throw the hedge balls above the waist and there had to be a 50-foot distance between you and your opponent. We had plenty of loud arguments about brothers who frequently violated the rules.


Surprisingly, we were reluctant to use the thorns as weapons (at least on siblings). I remember being told that a deadly infection would result if a thorn pierced deep into human flesh. Probably, my mom told us that as a preventative measure to save on tears.  I also assumed that the hedge apple fruit was also poisonous but have since learned they are not.

Most of our hedge apple wars broke out when we were supposed to be building a fence out of the hedge posts kindly provided by the Farmer. Why hedge posts? The dense wood made for a tough, rot – resistant post (it is very difficult to drive a nail or staple into when fence building, Dad!).


As the 100-year milestone anniversary of the Cook County Farm Bureau® draws nearer (March 2020), we continue to research the history of the Cook County Farm Bureau. This past month, I spent time reviewing researching 1950 through 1959. These years were dominated by post-World War II recovery and production efforts.


I also began seeing names of people that I am familiar with…Harold Bergman, Walter Sass, Carl Bormet, farm advisers Bill Whiteside and Jim Fizzell, Bill Stelter, Henry Andresen, Simon DeBoer, Ray Knieriem, Arthur Brandau, Cornelius Rietveld and other I met or heard about at one time.


The past is intersecting with the present and it is so amazing to be able to personally see the impact of yesterday’s leadership on today’s Cook County Farm Bureau!


Enjoy reviewing the 1950–59 decade of history below…


CCFB history: 1950-59


  • The board approved a resolution that provided for the tax objection service through the Farm Bureau for members and nonmembers.
  • 7 townships in northern Cook formed a Soil Conservation District.
  • The board approved a committee to meet with Campbell and Libby regarding farmer vegetable production contracts.
  • Federal legislation (the Brannan plan) was being considered to create a separation between the Farm Bureaus and the Farm Advisers that are a part of the Extension Service.




  • Mr. C.F. Mees was hired to serve as farm advisor beginning January 1, 1951 to replace Mr. C.A. Hughes. 
  • Charles Erickson was elected President, taking over from L. W. Pohlman.

It was announced that farmworkers can now be covered by Social Security. The CCFB provided guidance to farmers to help in the understanding and administration of the new rules. 


  • 68 4-H members, parents and leaders took a tour of the Chicago Union Stockyards.
  • The CCFB soil technician, H.L. Cletcher, reported that his lab had between 4,000 and 5000 soil samples to analyze in 3 weeks.
  • The CCFB board announced the purchase of 2 unimproved lots in Tinley Park for the purpose of building a new Farm Bureau building.


  • The CCFB encouraged farmers to vaccinate their hogs with hog serum to prevent deadly cholera.
  • Details were provided to members on new truck license fees and rules in Illinois. At one point, the new trucking regulations were ruled unconstitutional. Then they went into effect. Then, a judge granted an injunction to prevent the Secretary of State from enacting. The state police began arresting truckers that were not properly licensed. Farmers were in a state of flux not knowing what to do.

The CCFB provided members with plans about the “basic farmhouse” no. 480 which featured conveniences and an economical layout



  • The board went on record as opposing the South Cook Mosquito Abatement District due to the tax burden it would place on members and universal military training for all young men due to the duration and labor challenges it would provide on the farm.
  • Farmers in Rich and Bremen townships protested a proposal to take 6,000 acres to develop a military airfield.
  • The CCFB announced completion and held an open house for members to view the new Farm Bureau building built in Tinley Park area because it was more rural and agricultural than the Blue Island location.


  • The CCFB concluded a tax service as the costs were exceeding the benefits of providing for members.
  • The Board of Directors went on record as opposing the Cook County Forest Reserve in purchasing food agricultural land for forest preserve purposes.


  • The state truck license regulations debacle from 1952 continued with farmers more confused than ever regarding the law on license and plate fees regulated by the Secretary of State. Legislation was proposed in an attempt to clarify and provide relief.
  • FB members Donald Doctor, Oil and Park; James Heatherwick, Orland Park; Cornelius Rietveld, Chicago Heights; and William Stelter, Tinley Park were elected as charter directors to the South Cook Soil Conservation District.
  • A livestock outlook meeting was held to provide information about how the Korean war truce would affect farm prices, how the drought in the Southwest would impact cattle and sheep markets, and how raising the federal debt ceiling would impact farmers.


  • The CCFB Vegetable Marketing Committee met with officials from Campbell Soup and Libby Companies to discuss the upcoming growing season canning contracts for farmers.
  • Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson spoke to the members at the IAA Annual meeting in Chicago at the Sherman Hotel.
  • Representatives from CCFB and other area County Farm Bureau’s met with the Illinois Tollway commission on several Tollway proposals and communicated to members about the projects.


  • The CCFB announced it would assist members in filing property tax protests.
  • Significant information on weed prevention, fertilization, insect control and production of crops was shared with farmers on a monthly basis by the organization through the farm advisers. Additional advice on hay, silage and pastures was offered.
  • The board went on record of opposing the extension of the Chicago sanitary sewer system resulting in the formation of a new drainage district.
  • The Organization conducted a field study and report of Michigan specialty production and marketing seeking ways to help local farmers sell and market to consumers.


  • Informational workshops and meetings on the topics of wills/estates, policy development, property taxation and beautifying the landscape of homes were held for members.
  • Information was provided to farmers on the new federal “Soil Bank” program that was making its way through Congress.
  • The CCFB helped 50 + vegetable growers in the North Cook area organize a new vegetable marketing cooperative, the Arlington Valley Growers, Inc.
  • The CCFB assisted members in reclaiming federal gas taxes paid that were used on the farm.


  • The CCFB provided information regarding the potential of incorporating farms to limit liability, simplify transfer of ownership, continuity in in case of death, increase efficiency and tax impact.
  • A new group, the Cook County Women of Farm Bureau Committee, was formed with 20 members (chaired by Mrs. Clarence Heinkel). Mrs. Harold Bergman served on the Illinois Farm Bureau committee.



  • Henry Eichholz was elected as the new President of the CCFB.
  • The IAA delegates approved moving the organization’s state headquarters from their building at 43 E. Ohio in Chicago to 1701 Towanda Ave. in Bloomington. The Illinois Farm Bureau headquarters had been in Chicago for the first 43 years of the organization’s existence. CCFB was opposed to the proposal.
  • A University of Illinois farm economist reported that the average farm family of five needs $7,000 of net income for an adequate standard of living.
  • G.W. Blanchard was named Sec. of Organization for the Cook County Farm Bureau, succeeding G. H. Mills.
  • Jim Fizzell, assistant farm advisor, provided information to members about Dutch Elm disease, trees, horticulture and lawncare.


  • The Arlington Valley Growers met with Chicago Mayor Daley regarding making improvements to the Randolph Street Market.
  • The CCFB backed a drive for more dairy record-keeping on the farm.
  • Information was provided to members about the new poultry inspection act and egg regulations.
  • CCFB members became more involved in the statewide organizations sports’ festival including trap shoot, bowling and softball.
  • The CCFB opposed subsidy to the Chicago Transit Authority based on the need for new and increased taxes.
  • Cook County farmers were up in arms regarding a hearing on amending the Cook County zoning ordinance that would eliminate farm property as a classification.
  • The end of an era… Armour and company announced it would discontinue slaughter of hogs in Chicago, the last national packer to operate a facility in the city.
  • The organization provided members with discounted pricing on “no trespassing” and “no hunting” signs.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau Pres., William Kuhfuss, served as the keynote speaker for the County annual meeting attended by a record-setting 1,000+ members.
  • Country Mutual and Country Life Insurance Companies offered a drawing for a new Jeep and many other prizes for member feedback regarding new trademark logo.




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