Kansas Farmers Union is the state’s oldest active general farm organization working to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and rural communities.
In 1902, Newton Gresham of Point, Texas, began the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America, commonly known as National Farmers Union (NFU). By doing so, he hoped to create a farm organization that would stand strong for farmers for many years.
NFU grew from 10 members to 250,000 within three years. As a result, NFU soon divided its strength into state and regional-based organizations in order to keep the membership strong.
The Kansas Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union, founded in 1907, has made significant and varied contributions to agriculture and family farming in our state.
Milestones in KFU History
1907: KFU chartered
1908: 1st female president of a Farmers Union local in the nation elected–Kansas’ own Miss Amanda Bates of Pleasant Valley Union, near Stockton
1908: Kansas Farmers Union Insurance established
1914: Kansas Farmers Union Jobbing Association established
1916: President Woodrow Wilson addresses KFU state convention in Topeka
1931: Kansas Corporate Farming Laws established
1973: KFU re-chartered
2007: KFU’s centennial celebrated
“When you think about a co-op, you can’t just think about concrete and steel. You have to think about the people. That’s what it’s all about.”
-Tom Giessel, NFU Historian & KFU member
“Some organizations claim to be 'The Voice of Agriculture.' I like to think Farmers Union is 'The Conscience of Agriculture.'”
-Donn Teske, KFU President
Early KFU and Farmland Industries History
KFU President Donn Teske shared the following in the May 2012 Kontact:
In 1914, Kansas Farmers Union Jobbing Association was created. The Jobbing Association was capitalized at $20,000 when 37 Kansas Farmers Union members each bought one share of stock and Kansas Farmers Union purchased 400 shares of stock. Four years later, when the Jobbing Association was on the brink of collapse, the stockholders came up with another $2,000 to keep it going.
The Farmers Union Jobbing Association evolved into the Cooperative Marketing Association (CMA), then FarMarCo, and then into its final form as part of Farmland Industries. In 1960 Farmland Industries handled 39 million bushels of grain and became the largest grain handler in the country!
When Farmland Industries went under, there were a few loyal people that recognized the historical significance of some of the documents and kept these hundred plus boxes separate from what went to be destroyed. I was told by the curator of the collection that he received a phone call one morning and was told that if he wanted the records to be in Kansas City by noon with a pickup otherwise they were heading for the landfill. He managed to pull it off!
I spent one afternoon going through a couple of boxes. This is a goldmine of agricultural history and especially Kansas Farmers Union history! I found the original minutes from the 1914 Kansas Farmers Union meeting when they chartered the Kansas Farmers Union Jobbing Association! Just think, I looked in one box and found the original minutes! What else might be in this treasure chest?
Work Remains! Many boxes of documents remain unscanned and the collection would benefit from additional research. Anyone interested in assuming the task and completing the work, please contact Donn Teske.