Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) centennial project has built substantial momentum so far this year, recently sketching its wish list before the organization's board of directors. The state's largest farm group will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019, and a small group of members have drafted a four-year plan for commemorating its first century of service to Michigan farmers.
Topping the list of proposed projects is a revised, updated and lavishly illustrated history of the organization—an engaging commemorative book that documents MFB's first 100 years.
"We're fortunate to already have two Farm Bureau histories on the shelf," said MFB Media Relations Specialist Jeremy C. Nagel, tasked with coordinating the centennial efforts.
Clark Brody's 1959 book, In the Service of the Farmer, documents the birth, the awkward adolescence and the promising young adulthood of Michigan Farm Bureau, the organization he was instrumental in shaping through those first four decades.
Brody's book was expanded upon voluminously by Donna Wilbur in 1994. Then a key staff member of the company's information division, Wilbur detailed MFB's maturity, hitting a prosperous stride and building influence from the 1950s toward the millennium.
"The Brody and Wilbur books are invaluable documents, but what we want to do for the centennial is streamline that name-and-date history and make it more engaging," Nagel said. "There's a fabulous human story underpinning this organization that we haven't told at all yet, and we're sitting on a massive stockpile of photos and documents to properly illustrate an updated history."
Illustrating that new record means accessioning every that massive stockpile
"No doubt there's a lot more in our members' attics, basements, shops and shed. I anticipate we'll put out a call for members to contribute what they've got to our collection—when the time is right," he said. "First we need to get a system in place for organizing, documenting and inventorying what we've got."
To that end, MFB's Centennial Task Force has a pair of aces in its hand: Mason County Farm Bureau members Ron Wood and his wife Neva.
In addition to raising hay and cash crops south of Scottville, Ron Wood for many years served as director of the Mason County Historical Society. His wife Neva, longtime administrative manager of the Mason County Farm Bureau, complements Ron's skills with deep insight into the Farm Bureau organization.
Together, their formidable partnership dove into the MFB archives, undaunted and relishing the imposing task ahead of them.
Among their many discoveries is a folder of thank-you notes from librarians across the state, all acknowledging receipt of their complimentary copies of Brody's 1959 history, and all addressed to MFB's then-general secretary, Clarence Prentice. Some are more substantial than others, ranging from perfunctory, pre-printed form notes to, at the opposite extreme, this witty and impeccably handwritten note from a librarian in Avoca, also named Clarence:
(Click on letter to enlarge)
NOTE: Do you have any interesting Farm Bureau artifacts in your attic, basement, closet, garage, barn or equipment shed? Email your photo to Jeremy C. Nagel.