Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement.
The triangle represents Farmers Union’s core principles. The base of the triangle represents education. Education of members and others is considered the foundation of Farmers Union’s success in all areas of the organization. The sides of the triangle represent cooperation and legislation. The cooperation side of the triangle represents members working together to achieve common goals and Farmers Union’s commitment to cooperative education and cooperative business development. The legislation side of the triangle represents Farmers Union’s lobbying efforts in the legislative arena.
Proud History. A Clear Vision. A Bright Future.
Wisconsin Farmers Union received its charter in 1930 as the agricultural depression deepened and farmers were becoming more distressed and desperate. Delegates to the first Farmers Union convention met in Menomonie on November 6, 7 and 8, but the charter was not officially signed and the seal affixed until November 14, 1930, making the state organization a full-fledged member of National Farmers Union.
The first state convention and the granting of a charter were the culmination of the efforts of a committee of dedicated leaders who helped establish Farmers Union in Wisconsin in the late 1920s. The Northwest Committee, made up of M.W. Thatcher of St. Paul, C.C. Talbott of North Dakota and A.W. Ricker, editor of the Farmers Union Herald in St. Paul, were authorized by the board of directors of National Farmers Union to supervise organization work in the states of North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Through the leadership efforts of the Northwest Committee during 1928 and 1929, Farmers Union county organizations were established predominantly in northwestern Wisconsin, paving the way for a state convention and charter. Said Ricker in the Herald: “The first Farmers Union state convention held in Wisconsin proved to be a thrilling experience for the 285 delegates who attended from 20 counties...There was not a moment of relaxation for these delegates except during hours of scanty slumber.”
On the first day of the convention, the delegates elected the first board of directors: A.N. Young of Douglas County, D.D. Kennedy of Polk County, K.W. Hones of Dunn County, Frank Calvin of St. Croix County, N.A. Penning of Chippewa County, Edward Olsen of Clark County and Emily Klein of Buffalo County. William Sanderson of Dunn County was named secretary of the board.
An earlier effort in the mid-1920s to establish a state organization in Wisconsin failed after an impressive start. In 1926, there were nearly 2,000 Farmers Union members in Wisconsin, but leadership became factionalized and the organization was splintered. The oldest Farmers Union local in Wisconsin, the Elk Mound Local No. 4 (Dunn County) received its charter from National Farmers Union on April 28, 1926, in this period of early membership formation. There are other locals which have a longer history, but they were organized in the Society of Equity and became Farmers Union locals when these farm organizations merged in 1934.
Farmers Union’s basic strength has always come from the grassroots level—the local organization. Delegates, elected by local members, transact business conducted at county and state conventions. Delegates at the state convention, elected by locals, in turn select the delegates who will participate at national conventions. Every farmer, then, when he or she joins Farmers Union, can have a say concerning the policies of the organization through the democratic process that begins at the local level. Informed members can make constructive contributions to their Farmers Union’ s three-sided foundation of education, cooperation and legislation.
In November of 1930, a committee on junior work, appointed by former National Farmers Union president C.E. Huff, met during the Farmers Union national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and laid the groundwork for the organization’ s youth education program, which continues to flourish today. The Farmers Union youth program was a forerunner of many of the lasting institutions which emerged from the depths of the Great Depression. Those desperate times gave birth to many progressive ideas with which Wisconsin Farmers Union became closely identified.
It was during these first years of Wisconsin Farmers Union that the nation fully recognized its responsibility to agriculture. It was during that time that many services were begun to help preserved and maintain the family farm. The Soil Conservation Service, the Production Marketing Administration, the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Farm Credit Administration and the Rural Electrification Administration were among the institutions established by the federal government which bore the stamp of early Farmers Union influence.
From the outset, Chippewa Falls was selected as the legal headquarters of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. The first meeting of the organization’ s board of directors occurred November 29, 1930, at the Hotel Northern in Chippewa Falls. The present office building was purchased in December of 1945 and occupied in early 1946.
Chippewa Falls is also the site of Wisconsin Farmers Union Kamp Kenwood, where youth learn the values of cooperation, leadership and sustainability during camp sessions held each summer. The camp, located on a 30-acre wildlife refuge along Lake Wissota, was dedicated in 1951. Funds to build the camp were raised through donations from Farmers Union members, cooperatives, labor unions and friends. Much of the lumber used to construct the camp buildings came from the pine timber on the camp site. Hundreds of Farmers Union members and friends donated a few days each in the construction of the camp buildings.