Ag Today February 1, 2017

Butte County Farm Bureau, 100 years and counting

By Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED: 01/31/17, 5:53 PM PST | UPDATED: 17 HRS AGO

Oroville >> Warm weather, water and great soil were the building blocks of the local farm community 100 years ago. The land lent itself to olives, almonds and rice, which were the top crops of 1917.

This was also the year that farmers came together to form the Butte County Farm Bureau (, as a way to gather, share information and advocate for farm-related issues.


In celebration of the 100-year milestone, the Butte County Farm Bureau will host a centennial gala Friday, with more than 500 guests expected at the Gold Country Casino in Oroville.

As of Tuesday, 24 tickets remained for sale; call 533-1473. The guest list includes 14 people who have served as local farm bureau presidents, as well as former staff members. Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, will be the master of ceremonies. California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger will also have a few words of congratulations.

An annual dinner is held each year and includes announcement of the member of the year and workboots awards, explained executive director Colleen Cecil. Marking the 100-year anniversary will be something extra to celebrate. Tickets are $100 for non-members and $75 for members.

Entertainment includes James Garner’s Johnny Cash Tribute Band.


Not far from the early goals of the organization, today farm bureau is working on issues that protect or promote the goals of growers and producers.

Recent efforts included passage of a nut theft ordinance, work on the county’s regional conservation plan and efforts to delay time-of-use energy rate changes. The group also is involved in local voting measures when they involve land use and farming.



The Smith-Leaver Act created the Cooperative Extension program,, to bring university research to people living rural lives.

The formation of farm bureaus helped organize people to more easily share the research. Farm Bureaus also helped researchers understands the issues in different areas.

During World War I, this link was important to help farmers produce crops needed for wartime provisions.

Cooperative Extension expanded to provide education for families and youths, including 4-H. This partnerships continues today.


Butte County formed the local Farm Bureau in 1917. By 1922, all 58 counties had formed similar county-based groups.


Butte County’s first farm bureau meeting was Dec. 22, 1917 at Chico High School. At this meeting, the bylaws were adopted and John H. Guill was elected the first president.

There were 486 people who signed that day, representing nine farm centers. Member dues were $1.

Below are excerpts from Butte County Farm Bureau records:


W.L. Sweet was the first farm adviser for this area.


The first women were elected to the Butte County Farm Bureau Board in an ex-offico capacity, May 17, 1919. The women were Mrs. C.F. Cheaney of Durham, and Mrs. C.H. Mott of Wyondotte.


Butte County Farm Bureau members voted to join the California and American Farm Bureau federations.


Glenn Harris was president on Sept. 27, 1933, when a motion was made to search for a new office space for the county Farm Bureau.


The first Farm Bureau office was at 1735 Robinson St. in Oroville.


Plans were drawn for a new office building along then-Highway 24, where the office is located today at 2580 Feather River Blvd., in Oroville.


The new Farm Bureau building was dedicated Nov. 30, 1955, at a cost of $27,474. The permit fee was $35.


For the state ballot in November 1960, the Butte County Farm Bureau formally opposed Proposition 1, a water bond to fund the construction of Oroville Dam.

Members of the board at the time believed in water development and flood control, but disagreed with the fee structures to build the damn. California Farm Bureau supported the bond.


The Butte County Farm Bureau board of directors voted to support the Coalition Green Line Movement, a line that would protect agricultural land from urban sprawl west of Chico.


The local farm bureau formed the Butte County Farm Bureau Political Action Committee. In this same year, the Gerald M. Geiger Memorial Scholarship was founded and the first scholarship was awarded.

Today, Butte County Farm Bureau includes 1,300 members and is part of the California Farm Bureau Federation, with 53,000 members statewide.