The earliest organization of the County Farm Bureau was started in 1915 by the University of California, College of Agriculture, in Berkeley, destined to be an organization of farmers and ranchers who joined to promote agriculture and the cooperative study of farm conditions. The Farm Bureau movement was designed to provide an educational forum through Farm Centers, which were the satellite community units of the County Farm Bureau, maintained for the County Farm Advisors. The process of organization clearly started in University of California Circular 133, dated July 1915, stating that no Farm Advisor would be placed in the County until a County Farm Bureau was organized, with Farm Centers geographically located within the County. Also, one-fifth of all the farmers and ranchers in the County must be members, paying dues of one dollar per year.
During the fall of 1917 and into early 1918, the official organization of the Monterey County Farm Bureau was completed with the election of O.P. Bardin as the first President. Members of the first Board of Directors were thirteen in number, representing all areas of the County with four directors elected at large. The records reflect that a membership drive increased the Farm Bureau membership to above 600, over half of the farmers and ranchers in the County at the time. The first Farm Bureau office was provided by the Salinas City Council in City Hall.
The hiring of T.C. (Thomas) Mayhew as the first Farm Advisor in 1918 marked the completion of the organizational structure of both Monterey County Farm Bureau and the Agriculture Extension Service. The first Assistant was E.S. Campbell in 1922. In October of 1922, A.A. ‘Tavy’ Tavernetti was appointed as Assistant Farm Advisor and in July 1923 was appointed Farm Advisor, as Mayhew was promoted to the University of California, Berkeley. In late 1922, L.C. Bernard was appointed as Assistant Farm Advisor and later transferred to Santa Clara County, serving there until his retirement. The first Home Demonstration Agent, Mabelle Eager, was hired in July 1919 and later also transferred to UC Berkeley. Her replacement, Anne Olson, served in Monterey County until her retirement.
With the Farm Advisors hired and the County Farm Bureau system in place, both organizations become interactive. The Farm Advisor utilized the Farm Bureau’s Farm Centers as platforms to teach and assist farmers and ranchers with concerns of growing and producing crops. Farm Centers were formed when a minimum of 25 members petitioned the Monterey County Farm Bureau Board of Directors for formation. Eventually, there were 12 Farm Centers formed within Monterey County: Aromas, Carmelo (Carmel Valley), Gonzales, Hesperia, King City-Greenfield, Lockwood, Mission-Soledad, Northern, Parkfield-Bradley, Priest Valley, Salinas, and San Lucas-San Ardo. These Farm Centers remained active until the mid-1960s.
The Home Demonstration Agent went throughout the community teaching nutrition, sewing, health and other assorted subjects important to managing the farm home life. Meanwhile, Monterey County Farm Bureau was also developing a political structure. By establishing departments and committees, Farm Bureau members were able to focus on specific issues facing agricultural and animal production. Committees authorized in the 1951 By-Laws revision were Dairy, Field Crops, Livestock, Grain Improvement, Tomato Growers, Tax and Legislation, Farm Service, and Water Problems.
The first Boys and Girls Clubs were organized in 1920 in five of the County’s Farm Centers and by 1922 had 81 young members. The 4-H Club Program eventually replaced the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Over the earlier decades Monterey County Farm Bureau occupied numerous temporary offices, finally centralizing operations at an office on Lincoln Avenue in Salinas in the 1940s, adjacent to the Production Credit Association and Federal Land Bank offices, and then moving to the Valley Center Park Row area for larger space. In 1959, Monterey County Farm Bureau purchased its own building on Abbott Street in Salinas; this building was later demolished through eminent domain for an urban renewal development sponsored by the City. An office building on Airport Boulevard was then purchased 1964, complete with a large meeting room and a more central location within the developing agricultural processing district in South Salinas. In early 1978, Monterey County Farm Bureau contracted to have the present office building constructed in the new Harkins Business Park being developed along Blanco Road; the business park created an agricultural service area as Cal-Farm Insurance, Monterey County Cattlemen’s Association, and Monterey Bay Flower Growers joined Monterey County Farm Bureau in adjacent buildings, with Production Credit Association and Federal Land Bank offices nearby, creating a one-stop area for local farmers and ranchers.
Monterey County Farm Bureau eventually incorporated as a non-profit organization in January, 1945. In 1956, William ‘Bill’ Barker was hired as the County Manager, later with a title change to Executive Director; Bill served in this position for over 43 years until his death in 1999. During these decades the Salinas Valley transitioned from primarily dairies and dry beans to the fresh produce products. Monterey County Farm Bureau continues to honor Bill by branding their Annual Golf Tournament in his name. The Board of Directors was expanded over the years to include 25 directors representing specific areas of the County, mimicking the Farm Centers that no longer exist, plus 5 directors elected at large and the Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee Chair.
Throughout its history, Monterey County Farm Bureau has maintained a lasting relationship with Ag Extension, with many years of cooperative efforts to improve the largest economic driver of the County. Successful relationships with other local agricultural organizations, as well as other non-profits, local elected officials and community activists have kept Farm Bureau as one of the most important organizations of our County.