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 –
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.
Membership increased to 321 members. On September 4, 1915, the second Harvest Festival was held in Esparto in conjunction with the first Almond Festival. An estimated crowd of 4,000 attended, 1,500 of whom were said to be “farmers and their wives.”
The third Annual Meeting and Harvest Festival was held in the Armory
Hall in Woodland on October 7, 1916. The Cooperative Extension provided
tremendous support for FB in the early years providing office staff and program
Membership increased to 425 members. During WWI the focus was on
producing more essential crops with less labor and supplies. During this
time, the UC Extension organized a rural fire control system.
WWI caused an Ag Boom, which led to overproduction in the 1920’s and depressed prices. The improvement of rural life
continued to be a joint concern of the Extension Service and the Farm Bureau.
New town halls where farm center meetings were held were built at Madison,
Zamora, and Dunnigan between 1915 and 1918. These were jointly financed by
local subscription and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. The united efforts
of the Farm Bureau also helped pass county bond issues for the construction of
a new $200,000 courthouse in 1917 and $1 million worth of road improvements in 1919.
Warren D. Norton became the
Agricultural Extension Farm Advisor in 1919, replacing Niles Pond Searls. According to a 1944 Daily Democrat clipping “Warren
D. Norton, extension service agent, is one of the
many Yoloans who appreciates the good work being done by farm laborers as a
whole. He has played a prominent role, through the extension service labor
office at 715 Main Street, in bringing Mexican Nationals here. Norton this year
is celebrating 25 years of service as Farm Adviser.
Members of the Farm Bureau last spring honored him at several meetings. Last
March, he received a silver set in appreciation for his outstanding work on
behalf of farmers. Norton has a reputation of never being too busy to assist a friend.”