"The Farm Bureau differs from many organizations in that it is not created for personal gain, but rather to render service. It aims to seek out and enlist talents and time of those who have ability, time and inclination for work in rural betterment." — F.S. Cooley, Director of Extension Services, Montana State College in the inaugural 1919 state "Farm Bureau Program of Work."
Senate Bill 30. Montana's sixth Governor Sam V. Stewart signed and transmitted it to record at with the Clerk of Supreme Court at 4:50 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, 1919.
Of all the Legislative Reports I've written in the past four years behind the social media screen for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, none has elicited the type of excitement that tracking down the details of this Senate Bill 30 did last week.
After weeks of digging, searching, discovering so many details of our organization's early history, I came — at last! — to the Governor's files in the Montana Historical Society archives. There, I put my hands on Montana Farm Bureau Federation's birth certificate.
The librarians heard me squeal with joy.
Full title: "A Bill to Authorize the Incorporation of County Farm Bureaus, Providing for the Filing and Certificates of Incorporation Thereof Without the Payment of any Fee Other than the Legal Certificate Fees.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1: Corporation May be Organized as County Farm Bureaus. A corporation to be known as the County Farm Bureau may be organized in any county to develop and to carry out a county program of work, … for the advancement of agriculture and home economics, the promotion of better understanding between citizenship of town and country, and the development of a wholesome community life.
Then, a nod from Governor Stewart in his 1919 "State of the State" address.
The week before, on Feb. 5, 1919, 23 established County Farm Bureau presidents gathered in Bozeman for their first state convention. There, Extension Director F.S. Cooley revealed the first "Program of Work" for the county farm bureaus. The delegation elected its first state leaders. Optimism for the budding organization was nearly euphoric.
"We wish to assure your honorable body that the Farm Bureaus of the state stand ready to render the same unselfish service in building up Montana agriculture in the coming days for reconstruction, as has been rendered by them under the stress of war." — Resolution drafted at the first state convention of Farm Bureau presidents, later presented to the Montana Legislature. ("Farm Bureau is Organized Now." The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feb. 6, 1919)
We'll call this Feb. 5, 1919 gathering "pre-labor" pains. It was here that these local leaders drafted the resolution Sen. John E. Edwards (R-Forsyth) would carry to completion during the 17th session of the Montana Legislature.
"The agricultural problems of Montana are many, and only the sanest and most carefully considered program can render the greatest service to the state, and it is to this kind of a program that that state farm bureau pledges its untiring efforts." ("Farm Bureau is Organized Now." The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feb. 6, 1919)
Cheers to each of the grassroots volunteers and leaders who have committed themselves to those untiring efforts for the past 99 years. Please join us in celebrating them today. Happy Birthday, Montana Farm Bureau Federation!
PS: In case you missed it, we're creating a Centennial Celebration you won't want to miss. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with history tips, memories and memorabilia. We can't wait to share more stories about our Montana Farm Bureau legacy.