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San Luis Obispo County
Farm Bureau History

In 1920, during the economic depression following World War I, members from the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce proposed to the County Board of Supervisors that a Farm Bureau organization was needed to unify the common interests of local farmers and financially strengthen the agricultural community. The Board offered approval for the organization only if local farmers would present an interest for establishing a local Farm Bureau. In response to the board's request, farmers S. Jackson Lowe, E.R. Lewis, Otto Sinsheimer and others - with correspondence from Agricultural Extension Service Director B.H. Crocheron - initiated the Farm Bureau movement for San Luis Obispo County in the spring of 1921.

The preliminary secretarial work of the Farm Bureau project was handled through the Chamber of Commerce. The first meeting of the Farm Bureau directors, under the leadership of the Agricultural Extension Service, was on December 28, 1922. Those present at the initial session: E.R. Lewis of Edna, M.F. Gates of Templeton, P.R. Moegnard, Webb Moore and H.K. Klaucke of Arroyo Grande, S. Jackson Lowe of San Luis Obispo, Chris Jesperson of Union, Perry Lindbergh of Park Hill, I.H. Wheeler of Las Pilitas, Frank Murphy, county agent; and M.B. Dempsey.

The Farm Bureau was divided into districts known as "Farm Centers," each having a chairman, vice chairman, and secretary treasurer. Each farm center chairman represented their center on the Farm Bureau's Board of Directors as is still done today.

The first Farm Bureau executive staff consisted of: E.R. Lewis, president; Webb Moore, vice president; and Bernice Coakley, office secretary for the Agricultural Extension Service.

The San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau's first membership drive resulted in 481 farmer and ranchers signing up at $2.50 per person. These members choose local farm centers to represent their voice. The first farm centers organized were: Shandon, Annette, Cholame, Las Pilitas, Edna, Park Hill, Arroyo Grande, Union, Templeton, Creston, Estrella and Atascadero.

By 1923, The "Farm Home Department" - later called the "Farm Bureau Women" - was organized with a first year membership of 350 women. The beginning projects of the Farm Home Department were school lunches, nutrition, and farm home improvement.

In 1928, county projects were developed by the Ag. Extention Service and the Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Some of these projects included revising the Farm Bureau Constitution, obtaining less expensive auto insurance rates for members, attracting new members through membership drives, supporting local 4-H clubs, conducting tax research and most importantly squirrel eradication.

Farmers and ranchers have readily shared "stories" about county weather and rainfall totals, in order to determine a more accurate accounting of the rainfall amounts for the different areas of the county, a rain-gauge recorder was appointed for each farm center, in 1929. Each recorder received a rain gauge and forms to keep rain fall records.

Farming needs did not stop with the Farm Centers; the Grain Improvement Association was founded as a non-profit cooperative in 1940 for the benefit of its members to engage in the cleaning of grain and grain improvement work. The first meeting of the "Farm Bureau Grain Improvement Association" was held in Paso Robles. The Association owned and operated the first portable seed cleaner and treater in San Luis Obispo County.

In 1949, the Farm Bureau Women’s “Chairman” was granted a seat on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors. This was unheard of in the early years before the women’s movement. San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau was very progressive compared to most other Farm Bureau’s who only allowed women to have an “advisory” position on the board.

Providing more county agriculture information to the farmers and ranchers became a necessity. In order to expedite communication, Farm Bureau, began sending out their first monthly newsletter for homemakers. The first mailing was sent to over 700 families beginning in 1959. The newsletter consisted of new scientific research and current information on many subjects in home economics.

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau suffered a large loss as fire swept through and destroyed the Farm Bureau building and warehouse at 157 Higuera St. on December 20, 1964, fire damages were estimated at $100,000. Only a few records in the Farm Bureau fire proof filing cabinet were salvaged.

1965 Farm Bureau building

On October 24, 1965 less then a year later, dedication ceremonies were held to honor the new Farm Bureau and Farm Supply building on Tank Farm Road.

By 1970, the SLO Co Farm Bureau was totally immersed in the preservation of agricultural land and the implementation of agricultural awareness throughout the county. The County Board of Supervisors approved the Farm Bureau's request to establish a "County Agriculture Liaison Board." The Liaison Board was designed to receive and review ordinances, elements and other issues related to agriculture and advise the Board of Supervisors.

It hardly seemed like 50 years when in 1972 San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau celebrated its 50th anniversary. The celebration was held at the Royal Inn Motel in San Luis Obispo. Fourteen former presidents of the county Farm Bureau attended and California Director of Agriculture C. Brunell Christensen was the keynote speaker.

Just as unexpected events happen to farmers and ranchers, nature plays its hand without notice and as a result of the appearance of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly in 1981; the Farm Bureau requested the County Board of Supervisors endorse an aggressive program to eradicate the Mediterranean Fruit Fly before it could become a problem to the county's agriculture. As a result, a resolution was written.

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau print communications have evolved over time. What began as a newspaper at the inception of Farm Bureau had changed over the years to an additional Farm Bureau Quarterly magazine, and then a legal size newsletter called The Bulletin. In 1981 Farm Bureau began publishing "The Agrarian," a new quarterly magazine aimed at the interests of members within the county and so that staff would spend less time on publication as they had increasing duties toward county ordinances and agricultural laws and county committee involvement. The final result of all these transitions is what Farm Bureau has today in a monthly magazine called The Farmer and Rancher which keeps members up to date legislative news and committee reports on issues, along with events and feature articles on local agriculture.

Not only did the farmers and ranchers have issues to deal with, they had children to educate throughout the county and the only way to do this was to have on hand an educational tool. The "California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom," was officially founded by The California Farm Bureau, in 1986. Its purpose was to help teachers from grades kindergarten through 12 integrate agriculture subjects into their students' education.

With the help from other local agricultural organizations, Farm Bureau sponsored a seminar to demonstrate to county teachers how to use agriculture related subjects in their classroom courses. In 1989, this event evolved into the "Agricultural Education Committee."

It became clear to Farm Bureau members that there were members among the organization that time and time again had risen the call to lead, promote and advocate for the preservation of agriculture. The "Agriculturalist of the Year" Award was created to recognize those individuals. In 1988, former Farm Bureau President, Don Warden, was the first to receive the "Agriculturalist of the Year" award at the Mid-State Fair's annual Cattlemen and Farmer's Day.

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau Logo

In 1990 it was time for the Farm Bureau to have a means of recognition. It held a contest for members to design a new logo for the organization. The new official logo was later developed from a Cal Poly student's Senior Project in 1992.

In 1994, the Edna Farm Center, one of 6 Farm Centers, sponsored the "Cattle Brand History Preservation Barbecue" at the Farm Bureau office. Guests of the event had their brands imprinted onto wooden plaques. These brands are on display in the Farm Bureau Board of Directors Conference Room today.

SLO County Farm Bureau and the Foundation for Agriculture Awareness installed a demonstration farm in 1998 in front of the Farm Bureau office. The demonstration farm was designed to represent the different commodities that are grown in San Luis Obispo County. Each box is 1/100th of an acre and each furrow is the standard size for an actual crop. Lesson plans were written for local classes to learn more about the demonstration farm and agriculture in the county.  

Memberships were growing and new ways of attracting members became important. One such membership was the Business Membership. These businesses were offered opportunities to be listed in the Farmer and Rancher monthly and to advertise with discounts. The first business to come on board was Wayne's Tire, they joined in 1998.

As changes go, so did a fundamental institution Cal Farm Insurance. They moved out of Farm Bureau in 1999, making room for expansion for staff and for more storage. Allied Insurance and Nationwide Health became a partner within the California Farm Bureau Federation and county Farm Bureaus adding more value to the Farm Bureau membership and increasing the number of Benefits.

The Cowboy Art, Music & Poetry Festival later called "SLO County Western Music, Poetry & Arts Festival" was approved in 2001, as a fundraising event for the Ag Education Program, and was held at the Mid-State Fair Grounds combined with the Annual Meeting. This event was held through 2005. As changes makes growth and growth make for better ability to serve the community, the new Western Festival was revealed in spring, 2007 as it joined in partnership with the Annual San Luis Obispo Cattlemen Association's Art Show.

More work was in store for the directors of Farm Bureau as they began retooling their organization in 2002. A new Mission Statement and goals for the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau was created from many goals meetings.

Educating members is only part of the purpose of the Farm Bureau, its primary force and co partner in agriculture is the Ag Education Committee headed by long time Farm Bureau Director, Walt Nielsen and their Coordinator, Lorraine Clark. With their team, The 1st AGventure was held by the Ag Education Committee at the Mid-State Fair Grounds on October 16, 2001, with 1,400 4th grade participants and supported by Farm Bureau.

Farm Centers work on individual issues and resolve a variety of concerns within their districts. Events within their district sometimes affect them directly. The area of Adelaida formed a Historical Society and the Adelaida Farm Center began a long term lease of the Adelaida School House which eventually became a Historical Monument. The Adelaida Farm Center fundraised to assist in the refurbishing of their school house. This is a structure that dates back to the early 1900's.

In 2004 long term tenant, Farm Supply Company moved down the road to their new facility and in 2005 the property occupied by Farm Supply was leased to Quinn Rental.

Sometimes Centers outgrow their names as did Cambria Farm Center which was renamed to include that area of Morro Bay north, thus, the North Coast Farm Center. At the same time the Nipomo Farm Center was renamed the South County/Nipomo Farm Center for the same reason.

Bringing all of the communities together to discuss issues and encourage questions and answers on a one to one basis the first Regional Board Meeting was held in South County at the Edwards Barn in 2006. Doug Mosebar CFBF president attended the meeting. Not only did it bring old members together, it garnered several new members who were just realizing the effectiveness of the Farm Bureau in area issues.

In keeping with government and issues, state and federal, as well as county, the first ever county Farm Pac Fundraiser was held at Santa Margarita Ranch. The fundraiser attracted over 200 individuals from all over the county.