Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Your Paper, For You, And In Your Interests:" The Schenectady County Farm Bureau News

The farmer speaks his mind to the politician on this cover of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau News dated October 1950. With rolled-up shirtsleeves and newspapers and periodicals within his reach, the farmer is portrayed as being as well-informed as he is strong. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The Schenectady County Farm Bureau News is one of the many interesting local periodicals we have in our holdings. The Grems-Doolittle Library holds a complete run of the periodical, and its subsequent titles, from the inaugural issue in 1918 through the year 1973. If you're interested in seeing issues of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau News, please visit the Library or contact our Librarian for more information.

The Farm Bureau movement began in New York State in 1910, when the Binghamton Chamber of Commerce proposed a farm department of their local Chamber, to "extend to farmers the same opportunities for cooperation enjoyed by the businessmen of the city." John Barron was hired by the Binghamton Chamber of Commerce as a county agent in 1911. His charge was to make an agricultural survey of the county, inquire of local farmers what problems they were having and try to help them find solutions, to work with local farmers to identify best farming methods and systems, crops and stock, and implements and tools. From this origin, Farm Bureaus spread throughout the state and throughout the nation.

Executive Committee of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau Association in 1928. Standing, left to right: William Mc Michael, R.H. Schrade, E.A. Gasner, J. Hilton, Earl Jewett. Seated, left to right: Clarence Johnson (Manager), H.L. Varian (Secretary/Treasurer), Jacob Feuz (President), John Ennis (Vice President), B.J. Waldron. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

The Schenectady County Farm Bureau was organized in January 1918. The Schenectady County Board of Supervisors appropriated $2,500.00 for the purpose of establishing the Bureau. Fred Briggs, who operated at 210-acre dairy farm in Duanesburg, was chosen as the organization's first President. The organization began with 275 members. Soon after, in March, Theodore Clausen was chosen as the organization's manager. Initial meetings were held at Delanson, Esperence, Pattersonville, Mariaville, Glenville, Rynex Corners, and Bramans Corners to engage local farmers with the Bureau.

A few months after the Schenectady County Farm Bureau was formed, the organization released the first issue of the monthly newsletter Schenectady County Farm Bureau News. A column welcomed readers to the new publication by declaring, "This is the first appearance of your paper, and we are very glad to announce that we mean to make it YOUR paper. It is to be an expression of the local conditions as local people see them . . . It is to be a paper which will spread through Schenectady County the real spirit of co-operation and broadness of purpose, which understands the old adage, 'that which benefits my neighbor, benefits me.' . . . It is your paper, for you, and in your interests." The first issue of the Farm Bureau News sought to connect local farmers with the organization, and the authors were forthright in addressing the concerns of local farmers who felt that perhaps "the Farm Bureau does not amount to a row of pins anyway." The front page of the first issue listed 10 reasons for joining the Farm Bureau, and reassured farmers that they'd see visitors from the Bureau to talk with them: "don't be a bit discouraged if you see a Ford running into your yard with two or three men aboard. Guess it is the Farm Bureau, not a corps of book agents."

First page of Schenectady County Farm Bureau News for August 1918. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

Soon, the Farm Bureau News was in full flower. In its pages, legislation and government rulings on agriculture were explained, agricultural fairs, demonstrations, and shows were promoted, and local farmers shared tips on a variety of topics from record keeping to fire prevention to dealing with sheep scab and onion smut. An Exchange Column was soon established for farmers to buy, sell, and trade with each other, and farmers along with the Bureau cooperated in finding placements for farmhands seeking work. Meetings, Farmers' Institutes, picnics, and celebrations were organized and publicized. The Farm Bureau News also featured a number of advertisements from local businesses, selling merchandise from horse blankets to phonographs.

Throughout the years, the Farm Bureau News emphasized the cooperation of local farmers and the farmer's role in helping to standardize practices with his fellows, in farming techniques as well as in the business and financial management of his farm. One 1927 article encouraged local farmers to take an inventory of their business and file a credit statement when asking banks for a loan -- even if they didn't need to do so to secure a loan; in so doing, the "men older in the game" would "set a most excellent example" for the young farmers starting out and seeking loans. By the early 1930s, the idea of setting a good example for the "young fellow" was extended to children and teenagers, as the Farm Bureau News began to dedicate one page of its paper to local 4-H clubs. Members were reminded to post their membership sign prominently at the front of their property on a tree or barn; to do so "tells the world who lives at your place and that you believe in farmers joining together to advance their own interests."

Crowd in attendance at the Schenectady County Farm Bureau's 20th anniversary celebration in 1938. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

From the beginning, New York's Farm Bureaus had partnered with the College of Agriculture at Cornell University. In 1955, a congressional order separated the Farm Bureau and the Cornell Cooperative Extension. As a consequence of this change, the title of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau News was changed to the Schenectady County Agricultural Service News, and was published by the Agricultural Department of the Schenectady County Extension Service Association (still later, the periodical would be know as the Schenectady County Cooperative Extension News). While the titles changed, the emphasis on moving toward better practices for farmers through education and cooperative help among farmers endured through the years.

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