Celebrating a century of service

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) At its Sept. 4 annual meeting, Plymouth County Farm Bureau recognized former presidents as part of its 100th anniversary celebration. Attending the meeting were, front from left, outgoing president Jim Wess; Daryl Siebens; Farm Bureau Women’s chair Rose Heeren; Randy Hiemstra; Clark Tindall; Mike Jaminet and Todd Popken. Back row, Garry Hillrichs; Mark Loutsch, Dennis Baldwin; Allan Feuerhelm; Jason Schoenrock; Dan Albert; Brad Harvey; John Ahlers and Keith Brown.

PLYMOUTH CO. — The Plymouth County Farm Bureau organization is celebrating 100 years of Farm Bureau in Iowa and in the county.

The local membership celebrated the event during its Sept. 4 annual meeting at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds.

The local group was organized in February 1918, according to Regional Manager Mark Bohner.

“We are a non-profit organization that works for the betterment of farmers and rural communities,” Bohner explained.

“We want this to be a place for people to want to live and work. We need strong communities, but we need to have also a strong farm economy. Those farmers support the community. It goes hand in hand to have both of them strong at the same time. Without one, the other one doesn’t do very well,” Bohner said.

The organization started with the intent of organizing farmers and feeding a world that needed more food desperately, he said in his report to the local membership. At the same time, Farm Bureau was instrumental in starting the extension service to provide farmers and people with the information they needed.

“If you look in the minutes and records of both organizations, you will see Farm Bureau picked up most, if not all the costs for the first few years. Also, my job as a county ‘field man’ included running the extension program,” Bohner said.

That changed in the 1950s, when the two groups began to separate.

“Plymouth County Farm Bureau has always walked beside their members in good times and bad to enjoy the benefits and look for solutions for the challenges,” Jim Wess, Plymouth County Farm Bureau president said. “We look forward to the next 100 years of challenge and with a strong Farm Bureau organization we will meet the needs of members in the future. Together we can help to make farming rewarding and profitable into the next century.”

As regional manager, Bohner covers six counties, Plymouth, Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Dickinson.

While Bohner, who has been Plymouth County’s manager for 17 years, says he doesn’t have all the answers, he knows where to go or where to refer farmers and others with questions, whether it be about crop production, marketing, conservation or any other topic related to agriculture.

“Board members are getting a lot younger, but we still need the sage advice of older members, too,” he said. “We are starting to get younger members on our board.”

“This county Farm Bureau has been through good times and bad times and we’ve survived all those things. We are not the miracle workers. We are out there to provide positive solutions to be what can be done,” Bohner said.

For example, conservation is a huge thing right now, he said. The local Farm Bureau is involved in the Deep Creek Watershed in the county.

“We can’t tell farmers what to do, but we can tell them why it’s good to do it,” Bohner said of conservation practices.

Seven counties, including Plymouth, are supporting Siouxland Ag in the Classroom, a program that has two full-time people going into classrooms to teach about agriculture.

“Farm Bureau provides lesson plans to teachers on ag that fit the Iowa Core and STEM curriculums. Teachers can choose what they want, what fits into their classroom activities. That’s a big positive,” Bohner said. “We work with teachers and administrators to help. Teachers can go to the website, and find lesson plans, all the mechanics are worked out. We have a lot of teachers who are looking for stuff.”

The program also works to explain agriculture to students who are three and four generations removed from the farm.

The local Farm Bureau office at 28 Second Ave. S.W., in Le Mars, was constructed by Farm Bureau members for the organization.

In the 1940s, the Iowa Farm Bureau organization started an insurance company focused on healthcare for members.

The county group has a board made up of representatives from each township in the county. There are currently 18 active members, according to Bohner. A change in the bylaws now allows for at-large members as well.

Soon after the local group started, Farm Bureau women was also organized. That group remained active until about 2002.

Their focus included family health, healthy eating, caring for the home and entertaining, as exhibited by a display at the Sept. 5 annual meeting.

Bohner said the county has about 2,300 family members. “So if you say there are 2.5 people per family, that’s over 10 percent of the county population are Farm Bureau members. Some are insurance holders and use other services as well,” Bohner said.

At the state level, the organization is able to do more philanthropic projects as the insurance division has helped with the financial stability of the organization.

At its annual meeting, the Plymouth County group donated $1,000 to Life Skills Training Center in Le Mars.

The local, state and national Farm Bureau are advocates for farmers and agriculture, and spend time talking with local, state and national leaders about what policies help and hinder agriculture in the U.S.

“Farmers are not typically vocal. But that’s changing. We need to show folks what’s going on in our operations, and explain why we’re doing stuff,” Bohner said.

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