Downwind"The Building of an Organization; Decade 2=Growing Pains"
Cook County Farm Bureau will achieve the 100-year milestone in March of 2020. 100 years is a magical number and we have been researching the organization’s history in anticipation of the celebration.
We are 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. 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 hundreds of issues of the publication (the world of black-and-white), seeking organizational history, and recording member stories that capture the longevity, success, and human side of your County Farm Bureau organization.
Fortunately, the organization doesn’t throw away much paper; we just have to find time to read and digest it! Last month, I wrote about the fledgling formation of the Cook County Farm Bureau in 1920 and some of the challenges and successes the organization initially enjoyed during its first decade of life. I could see personalities emerging and policy positions established. I could see the ups and downs of membership recruitment I could see the creation of new affiliated companies including Country Financial and FS.
Reading the documents in the 2nd decade (1930 through 39), I can see the newness and excitement of creating an organization was wearing off and the need to get down to business to serve members emerged. Understandably, growing pains set in. I could see the highs and lows of member involvement and volunteerism. I could see financial challenges for farmers but also for the Farm Bureau organization as the country and its people suffered through the Great Depression.
The board, during this 1930’s timeframe, decided to begin sending a publication, then called Country Side, out to members; we still have copies of most of the issues. I have found it amusing that some of our archive publications copies have holes in the middle of them where articles and photos were cut out. A sign of the times, I guess, with no copy machines or smart phones to capture the information or images.
Of course, it is great to read about momentous action, decisions that improved the farm economy, and how history blended into the organization’s fabric. However, I found it equally enjoyable to read about items of day-to-day life like the purchase of typewriters for $5, providing 2000 calendars to members, gate signs with the members’ names on them, and various farm experiences in Cook County!
I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the sidebar of some of the CCFB history in the 1930s…
Side bar box: 1930-39…the second decade of CCFB
1930 O. G. Barrett was the Farm Advisor. In order to support and grow the 4-H club program, the CCFB Board hired M. E. Tascher as assistant Farm Advisor (salary was $2,000 plus automobile). The Farm Bureau created a tax committee (Mr. Watson, Mr. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Verduin) to address high farm property taxes in the county. The board approved action to begin publishing a newsletter to go out to members; the first issue Country Side went out on December 3, 1930. Membership dues were $10 with half the dollars going to the IAA. The board went on record as opposing a proposal to abolish the County Assessor. The Farm Bureau created a new company, Gardener’s Supply, to sell truck farmers’ seeds and insecticides. The 5 County Farm Bureau employees offered to withhold their wages during May until sufficient funds were available in the treasury.
1931: The Farm Bureau sought additional information on the creation of a Cook County Fair and also looked to create a vegetable grower’s market. The Farm Bureau began distributing Illinois Farm Bureau calendars to members. The Farm Bureau leased office space to Gardener’s Supply in Blue Island for a storefront and established a Farm Bureau office. The 1931 Annual Meeting featured a Country Life/Farm Bureau beauty contest with 12 contestants (Miss Laura Schoenbeck finished 1st).
1932: The Farm Bureau developed a committee to meet with the National Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association for development of a more suitable market in the Chicago area. The Farm Bureau worked closely with a new affiliate Gardner’s Supply, providing administrative services. The concept of an associate member was created (applied to Cook County Farm Bureau staff). The board recommended that the organization’s women organize a program focused on foods, clothing, shelter, and child welfare (Home Bureau).
1933: Mr. Barrett and Ms. Towne volunteered to reduce expenses/wages to help balance the budget of the Farm Bureau. The board voted to cut their expense reimbursement in half. Committees were created including publicity and advertising, 4-H club, property and equipment, insurance, Gardner’s Supply, markets, picnics and entertainment, farm supply, taxation and legislation, projects, membership, and finance.
1934: The board supported a merger of Gardner’s Supply with Lake-Cook Farm Supply Company. C.H. Mills was hired as County Organization Director (a new position in conjunction with the IFB). The Farm Bureau created a plan for the purchase and distribution of straw and hay. The board bought the building in Blue Island for $7000 for office space. A study by the marketing committee to improve conditions for all growers of truck crops was approved. What…The CCFB had a baseball team?
1935: After a very deliberate discussion as to the sale of beer and other intoxicating liquors at meetings sponsored by the Farm Bureau, a vote was taken in support. However, alcohol would not be allowed in any Farm Bureau business or educational meetings. There were 4,025 farmers listed in Cook County according to the Census of Agriculture with nearly 2,400 practicing intensive methods of farming, truck farming, greenhouse, mushroom growing, and poultry, with the remaining 1,600 working as dairy farmers and/or grain farmers. A piano was purchased for $5 for the Farm Bureau building hall.
1936: The board approved action to buy signs for the members with their names printed on them. Soil PH testing equipment was purchased. M. E. Tascher resigned as assistant farm advisor to assume the duties of farm advisor at the Grundy County Farm Bureau. Mr. Chas Glover of Chicago Heights was selected as his replacement. The Illinois Farm Bureau established a quota for Cook County of 250 new members. The Cook County Farm Bureau board encouraged the Illinois Farm Bureau to hold their annual meeting in Chicago (which it did). The board contacted WLS Radio regarding holding the Barn Dance Show in La Grange. The organization continued to work to improve the U.S. Agriculture Adjustment Act as it related to truck gardening and onion sets.
1937: The board approved action to purchase the Arlington Heights State Bank building for offices for $12,000. The Farm Bureau rented space to the Soil Conservation Association. The Farm Bureau became a distributor for DeKalb Hybrid seed corn. O. G. Barrett, farm advisor, submitted his letter of resignation to open a farm advisory service following 11 years of service (C. A. Hughes from Waterloo, Illinois was hired as his replacement).
1938: The first record of a budget being approved was recorded. Accepting teachers as members was discussed for those seeking auto insurance. The Farm Bureau sponsored a meeting of horseradish growers.
1939: A resolution was approved that expressed appreciation to Cook County Assessor, John S. Clark, for his impartial attitude in bringing about a better balance between city and rural real estate valuations. The change in valuation saved Cook County farmers an estimated $100,000. The organization also expressed appreciation to the Chicago Mayor for reforms made on the Randolph Street market for a better market for vegetable growers of Cook County and adjoining counties. A request was made for the state highway department to cut weeds before they go to seed.
Next month, we will knock the dust off some more of the organizational history archives to take a look at 1940-49!