The California Farm Bureau Federation was created in 1919 and the SLO County Farm Bureau was formed in 1922. In the first membership drive, 481 farmers signed up, paying $2.50 each. In the order of the day it was an all-male organization. Wives and daughters worked alongside the men but in the background. In 1923 the state organization formed the Farm Home Department as an auxiliary for the women.
In San Luis Obispo County over 350 women joined. Their principal objectives were school lunches, improved nutrition and farm home improvement. Later renamed Farm Bureau Women they continued to bring farm values and education in food and homemaking skills to the public, raising money with bake sales to fund their projects.
In 1949 the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, recognizing the place and power of the women’s group, added a voting seat on the board for the Chair of the Farm Bureau Women. This was a very progressive move as the Farm Bureau organizations in other California counties only allowed them an advisory position. The women became active in both local and national politics.
In the early 1950s they began selling corn brooms made in the Midwest and later made up a 15-bean soup mix to sell. By 1959, recognizing the need to distribute current and pertinent information in home economics, the SLO County Farm Bureau instituted a newsletter to which the women contributed articles. 700 families received the first issue.
In 1965 Farm Bureau Women established a Scholarship Fund for children of Farm Bureau Members and later expanded it to include students in 4-H and FFA. They established a successful booth at the SLO County Fair in the Home Arts Building which they ran until 2012 when the building was remodeled and reorganized.
From the 1940s through 2016 they sold See’s candies for Christmas. Now they sell their ‘brooms and beans’ at the Mid-State Fair on Farmers and Ranchers Day each year in the agriculture area where the barbeque dinner and wine tasting are held. They also have a booth at the bi-annual ‘Three Speckled Hens’ antique shows, held in May and October at the Paso Robles Events Center. Several years ago the state organization integrated Farm Bureau Women into the Farm Bureau.
Today, the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau Women, which was the largest chapter in California, is the only group still active in California. Meetings are held on the second Monday of each month (excepting July and August) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at a chosen restaurant. Women interested in agriculture are welcome. For information call Jeanne Myers at 805-312-0865. Today’s Farm Bureau is a necessary national force including non-farming members who understand the importance of American agriculture.
For more information about the benefits of belonging to San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau visit the office at 4875 Morabito Place in San Luis Obispo or call 805-543-3654.

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Lynne Schmitz can be contacted at lynne@pasomagazine.com