A Look Back, 63 Years Ago to an Earlier Day in Cooperative Extension History
In the beginning (1911-1918) all county Farm Bureaus were primarily educational. The name "Farm Bureau" was born in Broome County where Extension Service first took form. In those days, Farm Bureau was Extension Service and has remained so in New York State. Soon after the beginning (1917-19) county Farm Bureau executive committees found there were many problems of vital interest to farmers that were beyond the ability of a single county unit to tackle. In 1917, all county Farm Bu-reaus joined their efforts and formed a federation to study and act in the legislative interests of New York farmers. This was the New York State Farm Bu-reau Federation.
ln 1919, under the leadership of the New York State Farm Bureau Federation, the American Farm Bureau Federation was organized. Its purpose was to promote and safeguard the interests of the American farmers. It has grown into America's most pow-erful and influential farm organization.
In the following years (1925- 1940) like two growing brothers, the Farm Bureau and Extension Service developed into husky young men. One (The Extension Service) found himself a public organization that was fully occupied with bringing the land grant college information to the people and in helping farm people to help themselves. The other (The Farm Bureau) found himself in state and national legislative problems, often forced to take a firm and aggressive stand.
And then brother New York Farm Bureau Federation found that he could not develop into a hardhitting, dynamic organization because he would embarrass his beloved brother, the Extension Service. Extension, being a public-supported organization, could not directly influence legislation.
Therefore, the New York Farm Bureau Federation studied the problem and recommended that an inde-pendent Farm Bureau be established. It would have no legal connection with the Extension Service. There fore, it would be unhampered in taking any firm and aggressive stand that seemed in the interests of New York farmers.
A special Extension Service committee of farm people also studied the problem and recommended a reorganization. They recommended that the county Extension membership organization be continued. It gives more local control, gives farm people a sense of ownership, and assures that the Extension program would be more responsive to the needs of local people.
In 1955 the New York Farm Bureau, Inc., was formed to replace the New York State Farm Bureau Federation. County Farm Bureau delegates insured adequate finance through setting the membership fee at $20. Already Farm Bureau has organized Farm Family Life Insurance Company. It has placed over 20 million dollars of financial protection on New York farms. A casualty company is now being organized to "manufacture" auto and truck insur-ance at cost. Farm Bureau can be expected not only to develop a dynamic legislative program, but farm services, such as insurance, that will become im-portant tools for modern-day farming. New and in-dependent county Farm Bureaus have been organized and are planning membership campaigns for this fall.
Also, in 1955 the New York State legislature en-acted legislation which changes the name of the county organization that sponsors cooperative Ex-tension work. The new name, effective January 1, 1956, will be County Extension Service Association and will have agricultural, home demonstration and 4-H club departments. The old name was County Farm and Home Bureau and 4-H Club Association.
Brother Extension Service changed his name, but he will continue to carry on an up-to-date educa-tional program to meet the needs of the people within a county.
In 1956 the new and inde-pendent county Farm Bureau will organize legislative and policy committees, program committees, and others. It can be expected to take much more action upon local, county, state, and national problems. The county Farm Bureau can be worth exactly as much as the farmers of a county want it to be. They can make it worth $100 or $1 based upon what effort and enthusiasm they are willing to put into it.
Also, in the year ahead the Agricultural Exten-sion Service, with its "new name," will give serious study to its objective and its program. It will likely expand its work in marketing, develop leadership programs, and encourage a more effective organi-zation than ever before.
A Look at the Future: For many years in New York State, the county Farm Bureau and Extension Service were Siamese twins. Some-times it was difficult to tell one brother from the other. An operation was performed at the wish of each brother. The operation was successful! Each brother has an important mission to perform. Each brother needs your continued support and good will. Each will need, additional leaders, leaders with ability, fore-sight, integrity and most of all, enthusiasm.
A look into the crystal ball indicates that the Agricultural Extension Service will continue to be the center of agricultural information in each county. It will become even more important for the welfare of rural and urban people.
The same crystal ball indicates that New York farmers will support the new Farm Bureau. The new Farm Bureau can and will do whatever its members want, if they are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel and make it work. This has been the ex-perience in many other states that have developed outstanding county Farm Bureau units. The destiny of the county Farm Bureau and the county Exten-sion Service is in your hands. You will determine their future!
Reprinted from the Otsego County Farm News, January 1956.
Last updated January 7, 2019