The state's largest general farm organization got its start when a group of farmers from nine counties in southern Wisconsin formed a state organization at an organizational meeting in Waukesha on May 27, 1920.
At that time, farmers were feeling the effects of surpluses and low prices following a wartime period of high production and farm prices. As Farm Bureaus sprung up in other states, farmers in a few Wisconsin counties had heard about this new approach to farm organization. County units were creating state Farm Bureaus. In 1919 they saw the birth of a union of bureaus, the American Farm Bureau Federation.
By early 1920 there was Farm Bureau sentiment in Rock, Fond du Lac, Waukesha, Jefferson, Walworth, Dodge, Dane, Ozaukee and Crawford counties. Feeling the time had come for a state organization, their leaders called for a state organizational meeting in Waukesha on May 27, 1920.
The temporary chairman of the meeting, George W. Hull, Whitewater, was elected president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. S. A. Baird, Waukesha, was vice-president; C.W. Keys, Fond du Lac, treasurer; and Charles Peterson, Rosendale, secretary. The group voted to affiliate with the American Farm Bureau Federation and adopted a tentative constitution.
The infant national federation to which these few Badger farmers had attached themselves was unique in its makeup. It developed not in a mood of violent rebellion, as so many farm organizations had in the past, but in the spirit of self-help and mutual cooperation that led the county agent system. Groups of farmers, organized to advise the county agents, began to call themselves farm bureaus. In some states they contributed money to the work. One of the first public pronouncements of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau showed its concern for better marketing systems, and at the same time, its dislike of radical methods.
Ninety years later the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots organization made up of 61 county Farm Bureaus with nearly 42,000 voting and associate members. Its mission is to lead the farm and rural community through legislative representation, education, public relations and leadership development.