GEORGIA FARM BUREAU CELEBRATES 85th ANNIVERSARY
Georgia Farm Bureau is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year. The organization began when a group of farmers from seven counties in northwest Georgia met at the Bartow County courthouse on June 17, 1937.
Farmers attended the meeting organized by Robert M. Stiles, a Bartow County farmer, because they needed a farmer-led organization to represent them. A second meeting, attended by 50 farmers from 25 counties, was held in Atlanta on July 31, 1937. During this meeting, the farmers formed the United Georgia Farmers and elected Stiles president of the organization.
In 1939, the United Georgia Farmers affiliated with the American Farm Bureau Federation and two years later changed their name to the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Federation.
Since 1937, Farm Bureau’s mission has been to give farmers a united voice in the legislative arena, promote farm markets and provide leadership to Georgia’s agricultural community. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, voluntary membership organization that is local, state, national and international in its scope and influence.
“Georgia Farm Bureau has been, and will continue to be, a grassroots organization that represents farmers in Atlanta and D.C. based on policy positions our members determine,” said GFB President Tom McCall. “Georgia Farm Bureau has grown through the years as it started offering services and benefits requested by our members, such as insurance, but our core mission – to be the Voice of Georgia’s farmers – hasn’t changed.”
The first issues GFB advocated for on behalf of Georgia’s farmers included expanding electricity across rural Georgia and improving farm-to-market roads. Today, Farm Bureau continues to advocate for farmers on the county, state and national levels on issues including zoning, water, environmental regulations, labor, taxes and transportation. Every position that GFB takes on any issue is based on policy approved by Farm Bureau members during the organization’s annual policy development process.
In 1944, the GFB home office moved to Macon. After being housed in four different buildings in Macon between 1944 and 1988, GFB relocated to its current home office in Bibb County in 1988.
The Cherokee County Farm Bureau was established on June 3, 1960. Founding members were Fred Haley, Harold Bradshaw, Homer Adams, W. W. Denney, Alex Hasty, Albert Cagle and Steve G. Chadwick. Fred Haley served as the first president of the Cherokee County Farm Bureau. Cherokee County Farm Bureau’s first office was located on Marietta Highway. The office moved to 101Woodland Way, Suite 1B, Canton, Ga 30114 in July 2001.
In 1958, insurance services were not readily available to rural Georgians, so GFB members voted to establish their own insurance company.
The Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (GFBMIC) began operations on Jan. 2, 1959. The GFBMIC is owned 100 percent by GFB policyholders, and today is the largest Georgia-based personal lines property casualty insurance company.
County Farm Bureau offices began opening at this time, and today, GFB has 158 county offices. Each county office is affiliated with GFB but operates under its own autonomy and is governed by a local board of directors.
“Georgia Farm Bureau started because a group of farmers saw the need to band together to advocate for things people in rural Georgia needed,” said William Grizzle Cherokee County Farm Bureau president. “There was a time when rural Georgians couldn’t get hospitalization insurance, and Georgia Farm Bureau worked to change this. Once the Georgia legislature changed the state law, rural Georgians needed a company to provide insurance, and so Georgia Farm Bureau started its own company and began providing insurance as a member service. Many people think Georgia Farm Bureau is just an insurance company and don’t realize we started as an organization to advocate for farmers and rural Georgia, which we continue to do. Insurance is just a part of what we do.”
Today Farm Bureau member benefits have expanded to include health services, banking services, identity theft restoration, $500 bonus cash savings on eligible Ford vehicles, discounts on hotels, rental cars, amusement park tickets, prescription drugs, hearing supplements, purchases through Grainger and Jiffy Lube.
“Cherokee County Farm Bureau truly is a local organization. Our county staff live here. They know the residents of Cherokee County and can serve our members well because they care about our community,” said Grizzle. “Some people join our organization because they want to support the work we do on behalf of farmers and rural Georgia. Others join Farm Bureau because they want to gain access to our many member benefits. You don’t have to be a farmer to purchase Farm Bureau insurance, and you don’t have to purchase insurance to be a Farm Bureau member.”
Through the years, Farm Bureau has implemented numerous programs for Georgia’s farmers. GFB operates a Certified Farm Market program, which promotes farmers who grow produce and sell their products directly to consumers or who offer agritourism activities to the public. Member programs such as the GFB Women’s Leadership and the GFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Programs offer leadership development opportunities and ways for all members of the family to get involved with the organization.