The History of Yolo County Farm Bureau
Yolo County Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, non-profit, voluntary membership, California corporation whose purpose is to protect and promote agricultural interests in Yolo County and to find solutions to problems of the farm, the farm home, and the rural community. Farm Bureau is California's largest farm organization, made up of 58 county Farm Bureaus currently. Together, they represent approximately 78,000 agricultural, associate, and collegiate members in 56 counties.
Farm Bureau is organized on a county, state, and national basis, in that order. The county Farm Bureau is the nucleus of the organization. Members join by payment of nominal annual dues that entitles them to the wide range of services and benefits the Farm Bureau can offer.
The first gathering of the Yolo County Farm Bureau was at a picnic held in Yolo on Saturday March 7th, 1914. Sixty-seven members joined the Farm Bureau, making it the third county Farm Bureau organized in California.
* 1,500 people attended the day-long October 1, 1914 Annual Harvest Festival, which is what they named their Annual Meeting. Membership had increased to 270. The first YCFB President was a former dentist, turned banker and farmer, Dr. M.O. Wyatt.
* George Wilson, who was 95 when interviewed for the 75th History Book, commented that in 1914 there weren’t too many farmers that could stand up and conduct a meeting. That is something the Farm Bureau has helped members with over the years through its Leadership Program.
* Between May and July of 1914, nine Charter Farm Centers were formed. Farm Centers were focused initially on agricultural topics, but they also formed committees and worked towards improving their communities and infrastructure. (Minutes from the Clarksburg Farm Center in the 1920’s covered topics like where to put what eventually became the Freeport Bridge and landscaping the School Grounds.)
* In 1912, the Yolo Consolidated Water Company (YCWC) was purchased by the Yolo Power and Water Company (YPWC) of New York. In 1914, YPWC completed a dam across Cache Creek near Lower Lake and began impounding runoff. This inaugurated a six-year legal battle over water rights.
The population of Yolo County was 14,057. The first Farm Advisor was G.H. Hecke. He withdrew after a year and Niles Pond Searls became Yolo County’s Farm Advisor until June 30, 1919. The Yolo County Horticultural Commissioner was William Gould (1619 – 1923).
The first Farm Advisor’s office and the meeting room of Farm Bureau directors was in the Yolo County Hall of Records, located in Woodland, east of the original 1863 courthouse.
Farm Centers were organized for Woodland; the Capay Valley; West Sacramento; Esparto; Winters; Yolo; Davis; Knights Landing; and Clarksburg. During the next few years, several Centers dissolved and merged with others. By 1920, the Sacramento River farmers organized the Elkhorn Farm Center and the Spring Lake Farm Center was formed.
The Next Decade
In the 1920’s airplanes were first used for orchard spraying, crop dusting, rice seeding and spraying. The Hog Calling Contest was an integral part of annual Farm Bureau picnics in the 1920s and 1930s. Celebration of the annual Farm Bureau meeting with a Harvest Festival continued until World War II.
Agricultural clubs for boys were organized at most Yolo County schools in the 1920s, before they became co-educational and were called 4-H clubs.
Farm Bureau Directors, Home Department Officers, and members of the Extension Staff formed a work party to landscape the Clarksburg Union Elementary School. When the school was completed, Yolo County Farm Advisor Warren Norton contacted Harry Shepherd of the Landscape Division at the University Farm who drew up a landscape plan at no charge. The Clarksburg Farm Center then provided funds for the purchase of shrubbery and conducted two labor days when the concrete work and planting was completed.
In 1924, the potential threat of an epidemic of hoof and mouth disease was thwarted in Yolo County when Farm Bureau members assisted authorities with prevention and quarantine regulations.
Diversification of agricultural crops grown in Yolo County continued. Scientific knowledge and rural electrification improved irrigation systems and improved farm equipment. The 1925 State Fair theme was “Good Equipment Makes a Good Farmer Better”. University research made it possible to begin producing certified seed for barley, wheat, onions, beets, carrots and parsnips.
“In-service” programs for Farm Bureau members begun during the 1920s. The first, a worker’s compensation policy, was offered to members on an individual basis in 1924 through the State Fund of the California Farm Bureau Federation. The first Workman’s Compensation Group Plan, initially purchased from the firm of Wraith and Farish, has been renewed annually since (State Fund initiated a Group Plan in 1943).
Extension programs and the agricultural clubs for boys and girls were expanded during the 1920s through grammar and high school agriculture classes and were sponsored by some of the Farm Bureau centers, which became known as 4-H Clubs.
The first annual County Achievement Show of 1924 grew to a popular event in 1929 when 200 children and 200 adults filled the Willow Oak Park Hall. Records from 1929 show 72 of the 147 4-H club members were girls.
Blacks township 399
Cacheville township 729
Capay township 580
Clarksburg township 3,021
Cottonwood township 742
Dunnigan township 255
Esparto township 575
Grafton township 1,428
Putah township 2,097
(Davis city 1,243)
Washington township 4,137
Winters township 1,561
(Winters town 896)
Woodland township 7,654
(Woodland city 5,542)