California Farm Bureau celebrates centennial


Issue Date: October 30, 2019
By Christine Souza
Past and present California Farm Bureau Federation officers, directors, staff and guests pose outside the CFBF building in Sacramento during the CFBF Centennial Celebration, during which the organization also dedicated its new building.
Photo/Matt Salvo
Past CFBF presidents Bob Vice and Paul Wenger open a time capsule from 1960, as CFBF President Jamie Johansson watches.
Photo/Dave Kranz
Farm Bureau members, staff and guests gather in the lobby of the new building during the Centennial Celebration.
Photo/Kevin Hecteman
Jaime Johansson holds a computer memory card that will be among items included in a time capsule to be installed in the new CFBF building.
Photo/Ching Lee

Farm Bureau members from around California joined current and past California Farm Bureau Federation officers, directors, staff, and guests at the new CFBF offices in Sacramento to commemorate the organization's centennial.

CFBF was formed on Oct. 23, 1919, when delegates from 32 county Farm Bureaus, meeting on the University of California campus in Berkeley, voted to adopt the constitution and bylaws for what became the state's largest agricultural organization.

On the eve of the centennial last week, CFBF President Jamie Johansson was joined by past-presidents Paul Wenger and Bob Vice to welcome guests, celebrate the organization's 100-year anniversary and dedicate the new building at 2600 River Plaza Drive.

The event included the opening of a Farm Bureau time capsule from 1960 and the assembly of a new time capsule, to be opened in 50 years.

From the beginning, Johansson said, Farm Bureau has worked to protect and promote family farms and ranches and to find solutions to problems facing agriculture and rural communities. He said that mission still holds true.

"The success of Farm Bureau can be measured by the engagement of our members," Johansson said. "We've done a tremendous job over the years of having our members engaged and giving them opportunities."

Vice, who served as CFBF president from 1989-97, emphasized the importance of developing future Farm Bureau leaders.

"Every president that I've been involved with has always made a point of making sure that as you get toward the end of your reign that you look back and feel like the organization's going to be in good shape, because you've done everything you can to develop good leadership," he said.

Wenger, CFBF president from 2009-17, said, "It's great to be here for the 100th anniversary and then to be here celebrating this nice new building.

"When you think about Farm Bureau, we really are family; California agriculture is family. We've seen a lot of changes. But the main thing is we have really good people that are out there advocating on behalf of our farmer members," he said.

CFBF Director Ken Doty, who farms in Santa Barbara County, said his grandfather was a charter member of the county Farm Bureau from the 1920s. Doty said he joined the organization and became a county Farm Bureau director in the mid-1980s, when the county was developing a zoning ordinance for agriculture.

"Really, it's the people that make the organization," he said.

CFBF director Jenny Holtermann, who farms in Kern County, said she is blessed with the opportunities Farm Bureau has provided.

"I want to further promote (agriculture) and help other farmers have the same opportunities that I've been given," she said. "Over the course of the next hundred years, I hope to see the next generations build upon that. Farm Bureau helps us to continue that passion for agriculture and gives us a platform to voice our story and to really make that more personal connection to agriculture."

Placer County rancher Barbara Vineyard, who attended the celebration with husband Wayne, a former CFBF director, talked about their early days of Farm Bureau membership, noting that each of their families were members.

"Farm Bureau stands for what farmers need, whether it's fighting against higher property taxes, or water or legislation," she said.

On behalf of its members, Farm Bureau has advocated on a wide range of issues during the past 100 years, said Jack King, retired CFBF National Affairs manager.

The early days of the organization focused on improving agriculture and bringing much-needed new technology, King said.

"As time evolved, the issues evolved with Farm Bureau," he said, "such as establishing bargaining associations and helping farmers to get a better price for their products, which happened throughout the '30s, '40s and '50s, and as we got into the '60s and '70s, labor and environmental regulations became very big issues."

Speaking on how the organization has succeeded for 100 years, Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau Executive Director Teri Bontrager said, "Our members truly appreciate what Farm Bureau does, especially those that are involved in the legislative process and delegates at our state annual meetings, so they understand the value of the Farm Bureau.

"Farm Bureau is a family, no matter if you're in California or in Kansas or if you're in New York," she said. "Members understand the need for someone to be their voice and they know that Farm Bureau is the voice of agriculture."

Looking to the future, Johansson said, "We celebrated 100 years that brought us here. In our 101st year, we begin the building of the next century for Farm Bureau.

"The best way to prepare for the future is to build it, and that is what we're going to start for the next hundred years," he said.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.