Stanislaus County Farm Bureau marks 100 years

jholland@modbee.comMay 15, 2014 

The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau celebrated its 100th anniversary in style Thursday night, with a barbecue dinner, tractor display and wisdom from a cowboy poet.

Close to 1,000 people attended the event at the Modesto Junior College West Campus. The turnout of members as well as nonmembers shows that the group is a key part of the community, said Paul Wenger, a Modesto-area nut grower and president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“Agriculture touches almost everything in Stanislaus County in some form,” said Wenger, who was a county bureau president at one time.

The county group represents about 3,000 farm families and has often advocated on issues affecting agriculture since its 1914 founding. It also has educational programs on farm safety, leadership and other topics.

Farm bureaus were created to get out the word about the University of California Cooperative Extension, which celebrated its centennial May 8. The San Joaquin County Farm Bureau turned 100 on April 8. Merced County’s group dates to 1917.

The county and statewide groups are part of the 6.2 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest agricultural organization in the country.

The featured speaker was Baxter Black of Benson, Ariz., a self-described “cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses.”

In a pre-dinner interview, Black said farmers face criticism from people “who don’t know where their food comes from.” He said the Farm Bureau is well-prepared for the challenge.

“They’re organized, and whenever anything happens, they’re the first responder,” he said.

Black, who mixes plenty of humor into his talks, pointed out a poem that captures the state’s agriculture. Part of it goes:

The California farmer is possessed of a mystique

the rest of us sodbusters hold in awe and find unique.

The abundance of their harvest, its variety and means,

is impressive to a farmer who grows corn and soybeans.

The occasion also served as the annual dinner for the county Farm Bureau. It nominated Joey Gonsalves to take over as president from Ron Peterson; the board could affirm the choice next month.

Gonsalves is seed sales coordinator at Stanislaus Farm Supply and has been first vice president of the Farm Bureau.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at or (209) 578-2385.

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