Peoria County Farm Bureau
1716 N. University Street
Peoria, IL 61604
Patrick Kirchhofer, FBCM
Debra Pendleton, Membership Secretary & Bookkeeper
Karen Robinson, Administrative Assistant.
Phone: (309) 686-7070
Fax; (309) 686-8008
Formation of the Organization
On September 2, 1912, at the Peoria County Pomona Grange's Annual Labor Day Picnic at Alt, a discussion of the opportunity for farm people to form a sponsoring organization for county Extension work was held. Charles Feltman of Richwoods township was one who believed in the benefits that might be achieved and presented the subject for discussion. Outcome of this discussion was the selection of an "organizing committee."
This committee included F. A. Jones, Alta, Master of the County Grange, J. A. Hayes, Peoria County Superintendent of Schools, and the following as representatives of various interested organizations:
FA Smith - Peoria Clearing House
W.C. Collins - Implement, Vehicle, and Hardware Club
Robert D. Clarke - Peoria Board of Trade
J. A. Harman - Peoria Association of Commerce
Everett Shissler - Peoria County Farmers Institute
This committee met at a later date and took steps toward creating the sponsoring organization. Temporary officers were named: F. A. Jones, President; Everett Shissler, Vice-President; J. A. Hayes, Secretary; and Robert D. Clarke, Treasurer.
The official name of Peoria County Farm Bureau was adopted. A membership committee, 59 in number, was named. This committee included the supervisor from each rural township as chairman of his township and at least two other members.
This list of 68 men includes names of many families who have been prominent farmers in their communities and have served at various times as township directors for the Peoria County Farm Bureau. The name of only one man appears who was to later serve as an active officer of the new organization - Charles Ford.
At the organization meeting, Robert D. Clarke and Willis Evans, secretary of the Association of Commerce, were named as a Ways and Means Committee to raise the finances required to achieve the purpose - a sum of $2700.
The Farm Crop Improvement Bureau would contribute $1000, leaving a balance of $1700 to be procured. J. A. Hayes, the Secretary, sent letters to the 3500 farmers and landowners asking them for $1.00 each which would entitle them to membership in the organization. He also contacted business and railroads for contributions.
The thing which really enabled these men to get over this great initial financial hurdle should come as a surprise to one not familiar with the early development.
What Peoria County Farm Bureau member of today would suspect that his organization was able to get started due to some smart market promotion on the part of Sears Roebuck & Company of Chicago? Visualizing more prosperous rural customers through the new USDA-College Extension Program in the state, Sears offered for a limited period of time to match locally raised funds of $2000 in the first six counties to qualify.
At 9:00 a.m. of the day that the Sears' offer expired at noon, Mr. Hayes reached the $2000 required. The next two hours were futilely spent in attempting to contact the other officers. At 11:00 a.m. Mr. Hayes hurriedly wrote a constitution for the new organization, adopted it himself and wired the essential information to Sears in Chicago. Sears forwarded the $2000.
With the total of $4000 as working capital the new organization seemed in excellent condition to start as an operating unit. The temporary officers, having accepted the assignment for the purpose of forming an organization, resigned.
The new officers were Robert Clarke, President; J. A. Hayes, Secretary; and Charles Feltman, Treasurer. Office space was furnished for the group by the Association of Commerce. The task of the group then became the selection of a farm adviser who would qualify for the federal monetary aid through the University.
The University requirements for such a man have always been that he be a graduate of a recognized College of Agriculture and have acquired five years of successful experience in the field since his graduation. Another provision in the cooperative agreement of employment that the University has always adhered to is that a farm adviser beginning new employment be given a three year contract. This allows ample time for adjustments in working relationships and development of sound programs.
The man employed by the new Board was Henry Truitt of Chillicothe, who started in June of 1913 and served through 1915.
The most commonly recalled program of these first years by reminiscence was one directed at control of smut in oats by seed treatment. However, probably the most lasting contribution made, except, of course, the pioneering of a functioning farm organization was publications of the Peoria County Farmer. With the exception of three years some time between 1915 and 1922 the Farm Bureau has published this monthly magazine continuously, beginning in 1914. The first issues were devoted entirely to better farming practices with a classified ad section as a service to members.
Cooperative purchasing of grass and clover seed or perhaps it was simply "group ordering" was a feature of the program, also Extension short courses were held. Excursions to the University were also promoted.
The Peoria County Farmer of July -August, 1919, carried a report of the oat smut investigations of the past two years, an announcement of the Great Middle West Farm Tractor demonstration to be held in Bloomington, a premium list for junior exhibitors at the International Livestock Exhibition, and a report of the trip of 14 Peoria County farmers and farmers' wives to the University. These farm people "were free in pronouncing it one of the most profitable days they every spent." There were also discussions of inoculation of legumes, uses of legumes, the problem of hog cholera, control of perennial weeds, and Hessian Fly problem carried in this issue.
Wm. Taylor of Hanna City took the leadership as President in 1914 with Alva Scott as Secretary. The Treasurer of the organization selected in 1914, H. W. Lynch, continued to serve in that capacity for more than 15 of the next 16 years. This may give some indication of the respect gained by the organization for the overseeing of its finances. Through the years it has become recognized that the organization becomes more effective as a capable president continues in office for a sufficient number of years to become well known to the membership and to those outside the organization.
The era of a local organization promoting better farming continued from this time through the years of World War I with their farm prosperity.
Financial problems of the organization eased due to changes in the by-laws that allowed more realistic policies of meeting the costs of services offered. The value of the program gained recognition and farmers proved willing to support it in a favorable economic period.
Henry Gordon served as President during Truitt's last year and in the following year, 1916, when Wm. E. Hedgeock was selected as farm adviser to continue the program. It should also be noted that Mr. Gordon later served as Secretary for three years from 1918 through 1920, Z. M. Holmes was President during the second two-years of Hedgecock's first three-year term. As Vice-President E. B Gilyeart, E. S. Glasgow, and Robert Morris served in these three years. Alva Scott, Ralph Ojemann, and Charles Atwood were the Secretaries.
The Extension program continued with greater emphasis on purebred livestock, culling of poultry, demonstration plots, and farm tours. The application of business principles to the farms were stressed and farm record books were available through the University. Much effort was put into a program of testing seed corn.
Of significance to the development of the organization was the proceedings at the annual meeting in January, 1916, to reorganize the Farm Bureau for "another three years."
Membership dues had been $1.00 per member in 1913 and 1914, and 10 cents per acre in 1915. Approval was given for writing memberships for three years at $10 per year. A limit of membership at 450 was set. At the insistence of the University this limit was repealed in 1917. Members signed a legal agreement, binding them for payments for the second and third year. In 1917 the Peoria County Farm Bureau was incorporated and the major incentive for incorporation seems to have been to enable them to legally enforce these membership contracts.
The President and Secretary in addition to three men named by the President served as an Executive Committee to conduct the business of the organization. These three men might or might not include the remaining two officers. Both Z. M. Holmes and Sam McCluggage were serving on the Executive Committee in 1916.
During the war years, the farm adviser and the organization responded to the conditions forced upon them. The farm adviser was instructed to remain in the office for one entire six weeks period to aid farmers in interpreting the draft regulations and the provisions for exemption for certain farm boys, based on production on the farm.
Full cooperation was given in attempting to increase production of vital grains, in the Liberty Bond drives, and with the Red Cross. When food was sent to Europe after the war, Peoria County Farm Bureau carried out a program which resulted in the donation of 4000 bushels of corn for this purpose.
The Illinois Agriculture Association was formed in 1916 as an organization for officers of the county Farm Bureau. Peoria County first affiliated themselves in July 1917 with a $100 payment of a year's dues. The IAA held their annual meetings in Peoria in 1918, 1919, 1920, and with the local organization as host.
If the first three years of the new organization were financially unstable, the 1916, 1917, 1918, period were at least a period of solvency. The Treasurer reported a bank balance of $316.80 at the annual membership meeting in January, 1919. Mr. Hedgecock was given a standing vote of confidence and thanks for the manner in which he had conducted the affairs of the organization during the three year period.
Peoria County Farm Bureau leaders and members have contributed much. They invested money and assisted with formation of the State organization. The organization of the county and state worked for better marketing of grain and livestock. May 1919, the service of wool pooling was offered in Peoria County. Peoria Milk Producers were organized in 1926. In the 1920's, Farm Bureau was active in taxes. IAA offered contacts with state government in Springfield. Insurance was offered in 1926 locally. Peoria County Service Company came into service in 1929 as Farm Bureau Oil Company making rapid growth in a variety of products handled and services rendered. The incorporating Board of Directors of Peoria Service Company was headed by Albert Hayes, President of Peoria County Farm Bureau.