Monroe County Farm Bureau turns 100

Pictured during a Columbia parade in the 1980s, Young Farmers Committee member Chris Howell and daughter Jessica wave to the crowd from the farm bureau float. (submitted photo)
Pictured is the first Monroe County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, seated, from left, secretary Marcellus C. Hartman, president John C. Gummersheimer and treasurer Edward L. Rehling; standing: Valentine Herbst, Wm. V. Mueller, Fred C. Kueker, and vice president Robert A. McCormick. Not pictured are August Wild and Oscar H. Bremser. (submitted photo)

In 1917, the Monroe County Farm Bureau’s humble beginnings included an office space in the county courthouse and 229 members.

The 100-year-old organization now has 3,000 members and has seen generations of farmers through flooding, poor crop yields and various agricultural legislation.

The county’s farm bureau is part of the Illinois Farm Bureau that began only a year earlier in 1916, making Monroe County one of the first local divisions established in the state.

“Who knows what the future will hold? But there’s a lot of people involved that will continue to make it a successful organization,” Monroe County Farm Bureau manager Brenda Seboldt said.

The farm bureau has lobbied for farmers against certain state legislation and has assisted state representatives with drawing up legislation beneficial to agriculture.

Monroe County Farm Bureau President Glen Mueller said he has hammered home the importance of members contacting legislators and staying in tune with agricultural legislation. Mueller is in his fourth year serving as president.

“The farmers are already less than two percent of the population, so we need to come together and make our voices heard,” he said.

State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) and State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) both believe in the mission of the farm bureau and agree they need to work with the organization to support farmers.

“Monroe County in particular has a long and in-depth history of contributing to the farm bureau and agriculture in general,” Costello said. “Each farm bureau event I attend gives me the opportunity to hear about what local issues farmers are facing and how I can help address them in Springfield.”

Schimpf agreed.

“The farm bureau goes out of its way to make candidates available to both members and to the citizens of Monroe County as a whole,” Schimpf added. “It’s one of the many things that makes Monroe County great.”

Both have attended at least one Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Monroe County Farm Bureau. This program — started in 1982 — allows farm bureau members and the community to learn about the local, state and federal candidates that will represent them.

But the farm bureau also serves the youth of the community with programs such as the Monroe County Farm Bureau Foundation. The foundation has raised more than $24,000 — since its first silent auction in 2005 — for Monroe County students interested in pursuing a college agriculture program.

“I think the farm bureau and the FFA share a common bond and mutual benefit,” former Valmeyer FFA advisor Howard Heavner said. “Many of the leaders of the current farm bureau benefited from the leadership skills they learned through their FFA and 4-H experiences.”

Seboldt explained that the farm bureau wouldn’t have survived the test of time without the support of the community.

“If it wasn’t for our volunteers today — If people weren’t involved, the farm bureau wouldn’t have been here 100 years,” she said.

Anniversary celebration
The non-profit will celebrate 100 years during its annual meeting held at 6 p.m. Saturday at Turner Hall in Columbia. Beginning with dinner, the event will include a business meeting, music, attendance prizes and a silent auction.

Money raised from the silent auction will go to the Monroe County Farm Bureau Foundation. Silent auction items include a certificate for Dennis Knobloch’s history book “From Tablet to Tablet,” various gift certificates, a certificate for FFA plant sales, Monroe County Fair passes, home decorations and more.

For more information about the event, contact the farm bureau at 939-6197.

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