In 1918 a group of progressive farmers from Vermilion County joined together in their effort to form a new organization that would speak for agriculture. That organization was Vermilion County Farm Bureau, one of the first in the state of Illinois.
Life on the farm was rough then and there was little an individual could do to help the situation. However, as a group the members could pull together to address their needs and accomplish their goals. The farmer at that time probably had no idea how far the organization would actually be able to go.
Many things we take for granted today are a result of those leaders and also those that followed. Following are a few points of interest gleaned from minutes and past “Booster” magazines of the Vermilion County Farm Bureau.
In 1919 there were 431 members. Dues were $10 and year later rose to $15.
In 1920 the Directors names the Farm Bureau publication the “Vermilion County Farm Bureau Booster.” The publication was issued to provide timely information about activities and programs.
A veterinarian was employed in 1922 by the County Farm Bureau to work on TB eradication.
On April 26, 1925 fire destroyed the Farm Bureau office. Temporary quarters were set up in the Webster Building at 107 N Vermilion. Ironically in May of 1925, Country Mutual Fire Company began selling fire insurance.
A $25 reward was offered in 1926 for the capture and sentencing of chicken thieves stealing Farm Bureau members’ chickens.
In 1927 Mutual Automobile Insurance Company began insuring autos. Auto insurance was difficult for a farmer to obtain prior to Farm Bureau beginning their own company.
The 14th annual meeting of Illinois Agricultural Association (IAA a.k.a. Illinois Farm Bureau) was held in Danville on January 30-31, 1929.
January 2, 1930 Vermilion County Farm Bureau bought one $50 share of stock in the State Soybean Marketing Association. The Farm Bureau Board also went on record supporting $1.5 million bond issue for construction of paved roads in Vermilion County. The Vermilion County Livestock Marketing Association began active business on October 22.
By 1930 times were getting tough with the onset of the Depression. Then to make things even worse, Vermilion County Farm Bureau had their Ford automobile stolen.
In 1932 definite plans for Vermilion Service Company were laid and in May a manager was hired. On June 27, Vermilion Service Company began operation.
January 24-25, 1934 the IAA Annual Meeting was held in Danville at the Wolford Hotel and the Amory across the street. It was declared the “most successful in the history of the organization.”
Farm Bureau supports Producers Dairy Co-op and purchases $1,000 in preferred stock in 1935.
November 5, 1936 Vermilion County Farm Bureau purchased a building at 117 N Walnut for $9,450. The first Farm Bureau meeting held in the new building was June 22, 1937.
January 1, 1941 Farm Bureau hires an employee to do income tax work for members. On December 8, at 11:15 a.m. the Farm Bureau board meeting recessed to listen to President Roosevelt state a declaration of war against Japan. Things would never be the same again.
In 1942 Vermilion County Farm Bureau became the 1st county in the state of Illinois to reach 1,000 members. Also that year the Vermilion County Soil Conservation District was organized and the Service Company collected 40,000 lbs. of rubber for the government scrap campaign.
In 1943 gas rationing is in effect. The national speed limit is 35 M.P.H. Vermilion County ranks 8th in corn production.
In 1946 Vermilion County wins state Sports Festival and the girls’ softball team wins state title. Membership stands at 1,519. World War II is over!
September 18, 1948 Older Men’s softball team defeated Iowa State Farm Bureau champions from Webster County Iowa. With fall harvest came the highest producing field corn from Vermilion County – 150 bushels by Charles Miller of Indianola.
October 2, 1953 the first Farm Progress Day (later Farm Progress Show) was held on the Earl Bass Farm west of Armstrong along IL Route 49. This show has since become the largest outdoor Ag display in the U. S. Vermilion County Farm Bureau signs 3,000th member.
In 1956 Vermilion County Farm Bureau served 3,222 members and the county wins the state Farm Bureau baseball championship.
On May 30, 1959 Vermilion County Farm Bureau moved to 431 N Vermilion St, where it remained until building its current facility at 1905 U. S. Route 150 in 2000.
During the 1960’s many Farm Bureau members participated in family and social activities. In 1961, ’62 and ’63 Vermilion County Farm Bureau won the State Sports Festival and again in 1965.
Several other continuing programs were initiated by Vermilion County Farm Bureau such as “Farmers to Washington” trips and marketing education activities. Most of the segments of Farm Bureau were in place and very active by the end of the 1960’s.
During the 1970’s, 80’s and into the 90’s Vermilion County Farm Bureau was been very active in sending Vermilion County farmers to Springfield and Washington D. C. to support legislation favorable to the members and oppose legislation that would hinder agricultural production. Farm Bureau’s track record with Ag legislation has been impressive which indicates what a group of dedicated individuals can do by working together.
In 1971 the girls softball team won the state tournament for the fifth year in a row. And in 1973 the over 35’ers won the state softball championship.
During the mid to late 70’s several members from Vermilion County attended leadership conferences for both men and women. As a result of these continuing efforts, several individuals have gone on to serve Farm Bureau at the district and state levels. By this time it was quite evident that representation in Springfield and Washington was important and growing more critical.
In 1979 Vermilion Service Company began selling gasohol (ethanol).
Vermilion Service Company celebrated 50 years of service to county patrons in 1982. Prior to the establishment of this company it was difficult if not impossible to get delivery of fuel and other farm inputs. Vermilion Service Company became part of Illini FS in 1999.
A few of Farm Bureau’s legislative accomplishments include the farm truck license plates in 1971, exemption of farm chemicals from sale tax in 1976, removal of sales tax of farm machinery in 1980, provision for farmland taxes based on net income rather than gross productivity in 1981,repeal of state inheritance tax in 1982, protection in case of failure of grain dealers or warehouses in 1983, modification of farmland assessment law in 1986, and provisions for sound groundwater protection plan not burdensome on agriculture in 1987. In each of these cases, Vermilion County Farm Bureau members were actively involved to help support passage of the legislation.
Charles Finley 1918-1919
A.H. Gunder 1920
Charles Finley 1921-1924
George Lenhart 1925-1937
John Evans 1938-1945
Ross Bowers 1946-1951
Merle Jeffers 1952-1956
Richard Graves 1957-1958
Grandin Hunt 1966-1972
Don Baldwin 1973-1977
Elmer Olson 1978-1981
Lloyd Puzey 1982-1983
Willis Bird 1984-1987
Alan Puzey 1987-1992
David Downs 1993-1996
Brian Andrews 1997-2001
Steve Fourez 2002-2006
David Sadler 2007-2014
Dennis Smith 2015-
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