A visit to the San Diego County Fair is an annual routine for my household, as it is for many. If you go, I hope you’ll check out the agricultural exhibits, to see where a lot of your food comes from, and the role that agriculture still plays in our county.
The ag hall also includes a great historical section mounted by the Friends of Farming, a group of farmers and farm supporters formed to support the efforts of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.
The county farm bureau celebrated its 103rd birthday earlier this year.
It was early in 1914 that Congress passed an act creating a Cooperative Extension Service under the Department of Agriculture. This act offered to hire local advisors, working with agricultural colleges (like the then new UC Davis), to provide advice on up-to-date farming methods.
“A county farm bureau representing 20 percent of the farmers in a county had to be operating before a farm advisor could be appointed for the county,” according to one of the county fair exhibit placards.
San Diego farmers were soon flocking to the idea of setting up their own organization. Farmers in individual communities met to form local branch clubs which would then meet to form a countywide bureau.
On February 20, 1914 over 1,500 farmers, many with their families, showed up at the Spreckels Theater. In morning and afternoon sessions they elected bureau officers and heard speakers such as two deans from the University of California’s Agriculture Program, Thomas Hunt and H.E. Van Norman (the latter also a president of the National Dairy Association), and B. H. Crocheron, state leader of the new agricultural extension program.
“This is beyond comparison the biggest piece of agricultural business that has ever been put through in San Diego County,” reported the San Diego Union on February 21. “It means that the farmers scattered over miles of territory have at last united under one banner, that the farming industry has taken unto itself a backbone, and that from now on the progress of one will in a large measure mean the progress of all.”
And the Farm Bureau is still going strong. Check out their exhibit at the fair.
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