UC the midwife in birth of California Farm Bureau

Dec 11, 2008

The California Farm Bureau Federation is marking its 90th anniversary next year with an article in the current issue of AgAlert that traces the organization's origins and provides historical anecdotes. In the article, UC Cooperative Extension gets credit for being the "midwife" when the statewide organization was born in 1919.

Extension was created by the federal government in 1914. Before academic staff would be assigned to a county, the service was required to establish a farm organization to channel information from advisors and specialists to farmers and their families.

A county Farm Bureau representing at least 20 percent of the farmers in the county had to be operating before a farm advisor could be appointed for the county, according to the AgAlert article, written by the publication's executive editor, Steve Adler.

The first California county to qualify was Humboldt, which formed its Farm Bureau in 1913. The following year, Yolo, San Joaquin and San Diego counties founded their Farm Bureaus.

The article quoted a 1917 circular written by the founder of California's Agricultural Extension Service, B.H. Crocheron. Crocheron envisioned the county Farm Bureau acting as "a sort of rural chamber of commerce and ... the guardian of rural affairs. It can take the lead in agitation for good roads, for better schools, and for cheaper methods of buying and selling."

"Perhaps the Farm Bureau can help to buy cheaper and better seeds, can help to boost the local socials, can encourage the faltering school teacher, can get out and talk for good roads--but its first and surest function is to increase the local knowledge of agricultural fact," Adler further quoted Crocheron.

In time it became clear that the Farm Bureau should pursue a broader agenda, according to the article.

"Because the university could not participate in those extra activities, organizers decided to separate the Farm Bureau from the extension service. That was accomplished with the birth of CFBF on Oct. 23, 1919, when its constitution and bylaws were officially adopted," Adler wrote.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist