The Pike-Scott Farm Bureau celebrated 100 years Thursday night on the square in Winchester.
The farm bureau has grown and its mission has extended since it was started in 1920. Pike County was added in 2018 to join the two counties together. Out of the farm bureau has grown many successful business ventures and political advocacy for the area’s farmers over the past century. Executive Director Blake Roderick says many familiar businesses in the area started with the help of the bureau and its members: “[The farm bureau] also organized to form a shipping association and an insurance company. There was a Winchester Farm Bureau Mutual company that was formed. A lot of counties did that. They formed shipping companies that would have farmers come in and there would be a buyer who would work on behalf of the farmers not just the packers. Those kind of things were going on. Ultimately, those type of companies, they grew and they got to a size and became statewide. Some of them became nationwide. The buying co-ops that were formed became Scott County Service Company, and then they became part of the Illinois Farm Supply, which is FS, which is now GrowMark, which is a multi-billion dollar company all over the Midwest and Eastern United States. Then, the insurance companies became Country Companies/Country Financial, which are both nationwide also. The shipping companies for livestock – Interstate Producers Livestock eventually. They are no longer in business, but there were so many business ventures started back in the 20s because they needed to do a better job of serving the needs of the farmers.”
Wayne Brown, former president of the Scott County bureau from 2014-2018 and one of the key organizers of Thursday night’s event says he hopes the evening was a fun time of fellowship and memories for the current members and their families. Jeff Hurrelbrink and Chuck Frost prepared the evening meal of pork chop sandwiches, beans, and ice cream sandwiches. There was also a gathering of the remaining living past presidents of the Scott County Farm Bureau.
Thursday night also had a traveling farm bureau exhibit of memorabilia. Brown says that the Farm Bureau has expanded beyond just the farming family but the entire community in its century of existence: “We have a lot of members that are outside the farming community but maybe connect through a business or a family. We also have members that are in the ag business but maybe not working as farmers. There is a lot of benefits to being a farm bureau member. Anything that helps support the farm bureau helps the farmer and helps the community. In our community, that’s really a big thing.”
Several hundred members of the surrounding community were in attendance Thursday night to celebrate the significant achievement. Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire and Scott County Board President Bob Schaefer both presented the farm bureau with an official city and county declaration that declared July 22, 2021 as “100 Years of Farm Bureau in Scott County Day.” 50th District State Senator Steve McClure also was on hand and presented the farm bureau an Illinois Senate proclamation recognizing the centennial event. 100th District State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer also was on hand and presented a similar proclamation from the Illinois House.
Current Farm Bureau President Kim Curry says he started coming to farm bureau meetings as a young boy with his father and recognized the impact and importance of the farm bureau at a young age. He says he’s not sure what the next 100 years holds for the farm bureau, but he says that in the near term the farm bureau is going to work on better communication about farm-to-table operations with the general public: “With all of the changes in agriculture in the last two or three decades and even the last five years, it’s just hard to imagine what will be coming down the road in the next century; but coming up in the near future, we’ve got a lot of disconnect between the people that grow the food and the people that consume the food. Some people that consume the food are very vocal on how they think it should be raised, and I applaud their efforts but sometimes their ideas don’t work out real well on the production side. I think that’s where we are going to kind of be working in the near future is trying to bridge that gap between consumers and producers and find a way that we can grow enough food to feed everybody and protect the environment, and do it cost effectively. We have to be able to make money at it [as a farmer] or we can’t do it.”
Roderick says that the Farm Bureau continues to work hard in the political realm in bridging that gap between the political and the physical act of farming. He says the farm bureau’s advocacy for the family farm and the farmer continues to happen every year and is glad that he’s seen the many accomplishments during his years involved. He thinks the next 100 years will be much like the first despite the growing changes – continued science brought to the farm to help with best practices, continued political action, and continued fellowship and hard work in the next generation of the Pike-Scott area farmers.