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CCFB News» December 2019


12/01/2019 @ 7:30 am | By Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

My mom taught me that eating everything on your plate was the polite thing to do. I am quite polite. She also knows I will eat nearly anything. For that, I’m self-taught.

My mom likes to test my politeness and ability to “eat anything” skill. She sends me new food items totest. Today’s world provides many testing opportunities. The latest test was watermelon slices in a pouch.  I love watermelon. I tried them.  I will not try them again.  Sorry, Mom, I will not be finishing this pouch. Please do not put it on my plate to test my politeness. Fresh watermelon is the only way to eat watermelon.


In the good ol’ days, foods found in a sealed plastic bag consisted of potato chips, snack crackers and cookies. Things got a little crazy in those days when they double stuffed the Oreos, created scoops out of Tostitos, added flavored powder to the pretzels, and increased the box size of the Bugles. I managed to live through that change.


Today, it feels like a contest of “What can we put in a bag that no one else is ever thought of?” Everyone is experimenting with food, food combinations, food snacks, and food ingredients.  The “prize” is finding a convenient, healthy, consumer demanded product. People and companies are using great creativity and thinking outside the (garden) box.


With so many creative products seeking shelf space, people are being inundated with food thoughts and concepts at the supermarket, through social media, on the radio, on the television, in the news, and nearly everywhere a person may exist. Images, marketing messages, social media posts, news, studies. Good food. Bad food. Fattening food. Slimming food. Do, don’t and don’t even think about it.


Around us, there are the “Frowny” people that grumble at the foods you like or want. Sometimes, the same “Frowny” people change roles and become the “Smile, Grin and Fake it” people, usually while chewing a kale salad.

In some respects, food has become the new “weather or sports”. If you don’t have anything to talk about, you bring up the topic of food.


“That food is sure smelling good today”

“How about those pork chops?”

“What did Skilling say about food forecast today?”

“It’s been a great year for the beans”


We are coming down off our food high Thanksgiving holiday and headed into the Christmas/New Year holiday season in which food remains a major focus. I don’t know very many people who eagerly anticipate a holiday dinner composed of beet juice, mashed cauliflower, dried watermelon slices or fake turkey legs.


Can we at least agree that pumpkin pies should not feature whipped coconut cream, the stuffing should be full of gluten (properly cooked in farm raised turkey), and the mashed potatoes should have a minimum of one stick of butter?


We have the final decade of the Cook County Farm Bureau, 2010 through- today, that we want to highlight as we roll into the 2020 Centennial of the Cook County Farm Bureau. The contrast between the organization that began in 1920 and continues through today is significant. The growth in membership, programming, and action is obvious. However, the 100-year purpose of the organization remains consistent and steadfast:


Cook County Farm Bureau® is a non-for-profit, general farm organization created in 1920 by area farmers, businessmen, and community leaders to improve science, knowledge, lifestyle, and standards of living on the farm and off for its members. Today, the Cook County Farm Bureau holds close to these roots through agricultural literacy efforts, membership service, public policy interaction, consumer engagement, farm product marketing, and outreach.


Enjoy reliving a bit of the most current Cook County Farm Bureau decade…



  • Cook County Farm Bureau places first in total percentage membership gain in Illinois (106.75%).
  • Cook County Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (Cook CFB PAC) endorses its first round of candidates.
  • Cook CFB PAC names eight Cook County Commissioners “Friends of the Farm Bureau” in recognition of their voting record on pertinent Farm Bureau issues.
  • Farm Bureau members receive the first installment of the Voters Guide, an eight-page insert in The Co-Operator providing an overview of the candidates and offices up for election.
  • Cook County teacher Debbie Jimenez, is named Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom “Teacher of the Year”.
  • Farm Bureau celebrates the 10th anniversary of Food Checkout Day and its partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.
  • Beth Christian, former board member, is awarded the 2010 Illinois Agricultural Education Advocacy Award from the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education/Illinois Committee for Agricultural Education.



  • Cook County Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom program celebrates 25 years of educating local students about agriculture in their everyday lives.
  • Farm Bureau introduces the “Illinois Farm Families” program and Cook County Farm Bureau takes an active role in recruiting field moms and participating in the tours, spokespeople training, and television commercials.
  • Members and future farmers participate in a ‘Farming Fundamentals Workshop,’ a one-day program discussing setting up a farming operation.
  • Janet McCabe, now Cook County Farm Bureau President, becomes the first women elected to the Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
  • Sarah Fine-Koukol from St. Vincent Ferrer School in River Forest is named “Teacher of the Year” by Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom.



  • Farm Bureau’s Commodity and Marketing Team launches an urban garden grant program.  Cookfresh® aids urban gardens with the purchase of supplies, including plants, seeds, raised bed construction materials, soil, compost, fencing, and more.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau receives the Summit Award for Food Checkout Day from the American Society of Association Executives.  This award recognizes the outstanding contributions to society that occur when non-profit organizations partner.
  • Farm Bureau upgrades its website to improve member relations and communications.
  • Cook CFB PAC names seven Cook County Commissioners “Friends of the Farm Bureau” and endorses four candidates for office in Cook County.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau receives the President’s Award and Liberty Bell from the Illinois Farm Bureau® in recognition of outstanding and innovative programing.



  • Farm Bureau launches a ‘Speakers Bureau’ designed to connect groups, organizations, and clubs with local experts in the field of modern farming, roadside marketing, greenhouse production and farm related information/issues.
  • The ‘Cook County Staff Exchange Program’ is named a County Activity of Excellence by the American Farm Bureau Federation®.  
  • The Master Gardener Resource Center opens in the Cook County Farm Bureau office to aid members in search of information on soil testing recommendations, plant disease issues and treatments, horticulture related questions, and pest identification and treatment.
  • Farm Bureau launches a Young Leader/Ag Professional Group in an effort to attract and engage younger individuals in the agricultural industry.



  • Farm Bureau’s “Passport to the Farm Camp” for children ages 7-11 is named a County Activities of Excellence by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau hosts the county’s first “Meet the Buyers” event designed to help farmers connect with buyers.
  • Farm Bureau rebrands and relaunches Local Farm Products, consumers one stop shop for local farmstands, greenhouses, and agri-businesses.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau receives the President’s Award from the Illinois Farm Bureau for outstanding programing in the areas of Agricultural Literacy, Commodities/Marketing, Communications/Promotions, Health/Safety, Legislative/Political Process, Local Affairs, Member Relations, Policy Development, and Membership Quota.


  • Farm Bureau partners with Ted’s Greenhouse and Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana to re-create the rooftop garden at the Lurie House for the Flower and Garden Show.
  • Farm Bureau launches the “Farming Forum” program designed to explore new ways to produce food, creatively market and launch value-added programs.


  • Cook County Farm Bureau’s “Grocery Giveaway” program is named a County Activities of Excellence by the American Farm Bureau Federation.  The program connected urban consumers to local farmers through social media.
  • Farm Bureau submits the state’s first policy on Community Support Agriculture programs.  The policy is later considered by delegates at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.
  • Farm Bureau launches “Farm Bureau Cares Day” in which Farm Bureau leadership and staff assist local charities.
  • Farm Bureau launches the “Master Member Club” to recognize Farm Bureau members’ new member recruitment efforts.



  • Cook County Farm Bureau Board members approved a bylaw change to provide for a new classification of member, the Professional Member (PM).  The PM classification is for individuals who are employed in farm and agricultural related occupations but do not directly earn their income from farming.
  • Janet McCabe assumes the role as Cook County Farm Bureau President, making her Cook County Farm Bureau’s first female President.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation hosts its first annual “Farming for our Future” gala and raises over $25,000 to support Farm Bureau’s agricultural literacy efforts.
  • Farm Bureau partners with Ted’s Greenhouse and COUNTRY Financial for a display at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.
  • Farm Bureau hosts its first annual Farm Crawl.


  • Farm Bureau in partnership with Fairway Farms in Lemont, host a magical farm-to-table dinner at Cog Hill.
  • Cook County Farm Bureau launches its latest website to better serve members and to communicate more effectively to the general public.
  • Farm Bureau spearheads a District 5 Sense of the Delegate Resolution calling on the Illinois Farm Bureau Board to seek out solutions for farmer member families and small businesses on the devasting impact of rising health insurance costs.
  • Cathy Malloy, Family and Consumer Science teacher at Westchester Middle School is named a finalist for “Teacher of the Year” by the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program.
  • Farm Bureau introduces policy revising and updating the state’s Government Assisted Nutrition Program and Organic Agriculture policies.



  • Farm Bureau launches the “Food Pantry Challenge” and financially supports 14 local food pantries.
  • The Foundation’s Gala transitions to a Fun’raiser and plants the seeds of farm and food literacy.

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