Washington Farm Bureau History
January 11, 2011 - 8:05pm
When asked the question, "What is Farm Bureau?", the first place to look is at the foundation of Farm Bureau – the grassroots.
Here are families -- more than 6.5 million member families strong nationally.
Here are productive, politically active people, speaking out on issues of concern to rural America.
Here then is Farm Bureau, a non-governmental organization that has been growing for almost a century.
Here are county Farm Bureaus -- more than 2,800 -- federated to form state Farm Bureaus, which in turn make up the American Farm Bureau Federation.
In the early 1900s, farmers began organizing themselves around local associations they called Farm Bureaus to speak out on issues affecting them, and the concept swept the nation. Farmers in Broome County, New York, and then Missouri are credited with starting the first county Farm Bureaus.
In 1919, a small group of farmers from 30 states gathered in Chicago and founded the American Farm Bureau Federation. Their goal – speaking for themselves through their own national organization. Farm Bureau soon became the voice for agriculture at the national level.
Today, the Farm Bureau is the voice of family farmers in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, with more than 6.5 million member families.
In 1920, farmers drafted a purpose statement that is just as fitting today as our members speak out on the issues:
"The purpose of Farm Bureau is to make the business of farming more profitable, and the community a better place to live. Farm Bureau should provide an organization in which members may secure the benefits of unified efforts in a way which could never be accomplished through individual effort."
That remains the task of Farm Bureau today.
Farm Bureau in Washington has more than 40,000 member families and is the largest association of its kind in the state – not the largest representing farmers, but the largest overall. We prefer to be recognized as an advocacy organization whose mission is to represent the interests of family farmers.
Washington Farm Bureau was formed in 1920, one year after creation of the American Farm Bureau Federation. The earliest county Farm Bureaus in Washington were Walla Walla, Yakima , Columbia , Skagit, Kittitas, and Spokane, which had more than 2,000 members.
The state office was first in Spokane, then Walla Walla, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Olympia, before moving to Lacey in 2006. The current headquarters was built in 2006.
Many of the early battles for Farm Bureau were to ensure that rural citizens enjoyed the same benefits as their city cousins. This included rural electrification and telephone access, but other goods and services were also needed at competitive prices.
Many of the early county Farm Bureaus ran service companies providing farm supplies to their members. Washington Farm Bureau operated a service company furnishing tires, twine, tillage tools, and other supplies until 1987. Only Columbia/Blue Mountain Counties Farm Bureau continues to run a service company today.
Farm Bureau remains committed to ensuring that our members -- residents of rural Washington -- have the same goods, services and benefits that are enjoyed by urban citizens.
Today, Washington Farm Bureau consists of 25 county Farm Bureau organizations and is one of the most respected member-services organizations in the agricultural community. We provide a growing range of services to our members from health insurance and banking to the largest retrospective workers compensation/safety program in Washington.
WFB Mission Statement
Farm Bureau is a voluntary, grassroots advocacy organization representing the social and economic interests of farm and ranch families at the local, state and national levels. By providing leadership and organizational skills, Farm Bureau seeks to gain public support on the issues affecting farm and ranch families.