Downwind " The Building of an Organization" Decade 3, War Years
In March, my lovely and loving mother sent my wife a birthday box. My mom’s birthday box is a cherished tradition. We love mom’s birthday boxes because they always come packed with unique gifts, trinkets and random odds and ends that bring smiles to our faces. While the items are typically not fancy or expensive, many items are associated with childhood favorites. My birthday box could contain something that mom sewed, shoe string potato chips, lemon drops, pocket knife, fish lures, beef jerky, bit-o-honey; I love opening those boxes!
Even though it was my wife’s birthday, Mom did not forget her favorite offspring (if my siblings are reading this, that would be me)! There was a bag with a note in my wife’s birthday box that said: Bob – I found these caps in the machine shed so washed them. I think you might need more choices in cap wear! Spring is near! Enjoy love mom
Why do I find it so touching that my mom, while walking through the shop, found two dust filled hats and thought of me? Equally touching was that she washed them before sending them to me! Thanks, Mom!
My wife would tell her that I am not in need of any additional caps. I do not concur…
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 10 years of minutes and publications (The Co-Operator) from 1940 through 1949. What struck me about these years was the huge impact that World War II had in so many ways on the local agricultural community and how the Farm Bureau played a big role in providing knowledge, information and support through those years. Also important were the years that followed the war’s end as farm product demand and pricing fluctuated greatly. Added to the mix were soldiers from local farms returned from war (some did not return), attempting to re-integrate on the farm.
Many of the issues of today’s Cook County Farm Bureau were apparent 70 to 80 years ago: local property taxes, urban intrusion into farming, government regulations, insect/pest control and soil fertility, trucking regulations, zoning ordinances, farm income and markets, etc.
The Co-Operator published in the 40s, included a sample agreement for a father to use with a son or daughter who wanted to borrow and drive the family car. It amused me as I used a similar agreement with some of my children (the ones that would sign it!). I will always remember when one of my kids argued that “Life is not a contract, Dad!” as I enforced the provisions of that signed agreement. Ahhh, good times!
Enjoy reviewing the 1940–49 decade of history below…
Sidebar: Cook County Farm Bureau history - 1940 through 49
- This was the 20th anniversary of the Cook County Farm Bureau. The original foundation on which Farm Bureau was organized back in 1920 was to bring the findings of our state agricultural College on soil and crop improvement to the farmers of Cook County. Over the 20 years, many additional services were added including dairy herd improvement, 4-H club support, automobile insurance, farm supply company, tax work, marketing services, farm accounting, representing local farmer interests and more.
- The Farm Bureau began soliciting interest from members regarding the setup of a meat locker plant in Arlington Heights. The Farm Bureau worked with officials to make improvements to the hours and delivery process to the Randolph Street produce market. Formation began of a “Home Bureau” to serve homemakers of the organization. Information was provided about a new Cook County zoning ordinance and its effects on local farmers.
- The Cook County onion crop was especially good.
- The Board sent Farm Bureau leaders to Springfield to get information regarding income taxes and then held meetings on the north and south ends of the county to share that information with local farmers. At the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Baltimore, Maryland, Cook County Farm Bureau was awarded a bronze bell as a trophy for having the largest membership in the Midwest region.
- WORLD WAR 2: The Farm Bureau received a telegram from Mr. Earl Smith, Illinois Farm Bureau Pres., requesting information on the farm labor situation due to the draft. Farmers were concerned about farm prices, inflation and government policies to control the future farm economy in light of the “disastrous result following World War I”. The Farm Bureau passed a resolution that said, “resolved that the Cook County Farm Bureau support our government in its request for increase production of certain farm products for defense during this war emergency”.
- A new mimeograph machine was purchased for the Blue Island office for $98 and a small Kodak camera was purchased so that Farm Bureau staff could take pictures at night. The European corn borer and Japanese beetle insect pest had grabbed the attention of local farmers and state entomologists.
- WWII: Farm labor was a challenge, especially in light of increased production demands, as the draft took key men from the farm. The Farm Bureau set up employment agencies in the offices to bring labor from suburbs and cities to help on the farm, especially with vegetable production. A farmer’s war board was set up by Cook County (chaired by Carl Bormet from Tinley Park) to help work with local farmers to collect scrap iron, farm labor, collection of paper, substitute options for rubber and to increase farm production. The “front line” was in Cook County’s backyard. In response to the government’s call for more sugar, farmers in Cook County increased their sugar beet acreage 40% which added nearly 9 million pounds of sugar, enough to fulfill the ration cards of 360,000 people per year for “Food for Victory”.
- Experimental trials with local sweetcorn producers were held to “ice” corn in the field and to sell it under a special tradename in hopes of higher prices. The Farm Bureau spent $2,000 to put a new roof and tuck pointing the Arlington Heights building and insulating the Tinley Park building and invested $4,000 for future organizational needs.
- WWII: Two rounds of war meetings were held around Cook County for farmers to discuss their part in the nation’s war effort. War Savings Bonds were promoted as a way to help both the country and as future insurance against the next financial depression for a farmer’s future. The Farm Supply Committee reported the situation as to the supply of feed and gasoline both critical. Also, they indicated that there was a need for additional employees of the company to replace those lost to service and other changes. Victory gardens were promoted as an American symbol of our determination to beat the Axis and basic guidance was provided to members on how to grow vegetables.
- During the annual meeting, Organizational Director Mr. Hughes read the words of the song “A Soldier in Overalls”, composed by Marie Jensen, a Cook County member. The film, “Soldiers of the Soil”, was presented.
- Attorneys Edward Fritz of Arlington Heights and Robert Gilson of Blue Island were contracted to provide members with legal consultation for a fee of $2 for a verbal legal opinion. A goal of having 3,000 Farm Bureau members was set by the Cook County Farm Bureau Board.
- WWII: The Farm Bureau held discussion meetings about probable increases in the creation of cheap subdivisions in Cook County following the war. Concerns included sewage handling, farm drain tile protection, water quality, pressure on school districts, road traffic, farm trespassing, and the changing farmland values that affect taxes.
- Call back phone numbers in the Cooperator classified ads looked like this… Oaklawn 1523 – J – 2, Chicago Heights 5123 – Y – 3, Harvey 2754 – R, Orland Park 230 – W. The Insect Control Guide from circular 522, U of I College of Agriculture, was annually reprinted for members.
- The Farm Bureau provided information to farmers regarding the Federal Farm Census to be completed every 5 years. An income tax bookkeeping school was held for members on both the north and south side of the county. Cook County Farm Bureau set up a soil lab to serve vegetable, dairy and the general farmer. Using the results of the tests, the Farm Bureau could provide fertilizer and soil management recommendation for crop yields. The Farm Bureau provided information to members on the safety that milk pasteurization provides to prevent undulant fever.
- 2 pieces of legislation were introduced in the state legislature to address difficulties that farmers were experiencing with cheap subdivisions. The legislation gave the county board authority to set up standards for streets, drainage, building materials and water supplies.
- The Farm Bureau celebrated its Silver Anniversary during its annual meeting at the Lagrange Masonic Hall on December 13
- Post-WWII: Information was provided to local veterans for farm on-the-job training programs, vegetable experimental station field trips and field meetings. With the market generated by the government purchasing large volumes of vegetables to be shipped abroad and delivered for the military no longer available, and farmers producing at record levels as a result of the ramp-up for the war, overproduction and oversupply was hurting local producers.
- Information about the general post war farm outlook for 1946 was provided to members…
- An Illinois constitutional amendment to allow the changing of old tax laws was supported by the organization. On Farm Bureau’s Fire and Auto insurance companies changed their official names so as to include the word “Country” in them.
- The Farm Bureau lead efforts to create a Soil Conservation District for Cook County which required an affirmative vote by over half the farms in the county. Robert Benck of Worth and Robert Knoll of Glenview provided weekly vegetable crop reports for a radio programs carried by radio stations WILL, WMAQ, WCFL and WGN.
- Cook County farmers donated a 30 - ton carload of flour and grain as well as over $4000 to give to the Abraham Lincoln Friendship Train to provide charity relief for the suffering of the poor people of Europe. The board asked Mr. Chas E. Sauers, General Manager of the Cook County Forest Preserve to meet with the board regarding concerns by farm residents of Bremen Township about expansion of the forest preserve properties and wild animals, dogs and weeds. The Farm Bureau laid out a number of concerns regarding a $6 million bond issue to build to tuberculosis hospitals in Cook County exclusive of Chicago.
- The Farm Bureau joined a suit to restrain extension on taxes for the tuberculosis hospital district and employed a full-time employee, John O’Brien, on taxes to assist members. Members paid their proportionate tax share under protest and members also filed tax rate objections at the same time. The Board of Directors purchased $4,000 in class C stock for the Chicago Irondale terminal elevator owned by the Illinois Agricultural Association and provided information for members to purchase stock as an investment opportunity. Fly control on the farm was an increased focus. Farm Advisor Hughes reported on the likelihood of legislation separating the Extension Service and Farm Organizations.
- the Farm Bureau challenged members to guess the prices of farm commodities 10 years previously…