By John Moore, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
The Kern County Farm Bureau was founded over 100 years ago, and within that time period many changes have occurred. There has been a new President and Officer team every two years. Kern County’s crop patterns have changed from domination of lower value row crops to diversification of row and permanent crops to mostly high value permanent crops. The State and Federal water system was imagined, developed, maintained, battled over (a never-ending battle), left in partial disrepair, and now planning for overdue repairs is underway. The politics of the state have shifted from right to left to right to now overwhelmingly left. All during this time, the Kern County Farm Bureau has been a beacon that has not only existed but thrived. The success of the Farm Bureau is attributed to its members, its staff, and its Board of Directors and their ability to recognize that the only constant in industry is change. The latest change for the Kern County Farm Bureau was the sale of the building located at 801 S. Mt. Vernon. The decision was not easy. As this history rich agricultural advocacy group steps into the next phase of operations we look to the past to thank those who came before us and eye the future for great things to come.
The Kern County Farm Bureau building was established in the mid-1980s when the Convention Center on Truxtun Ave. was under construction. The Executive Director at that time was long-time leader Loron Hodge. The story goes that one day Mr. Hodge and board members were driving past the construction site where the old Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce building was located when a question was posed, “I wonder if they would give us the building?” An idea formed, negotiations struck, the building was donated, and moved to its current location on South Mt. Vernon. At the time of the move, the goal was to establish an agricultural center with the Kern Ag Pavilion, UCCE, and Kern Agricultural Commissioner’s office. The area has served its purpose until this point in its history when the effects COVID-19 paired with the size of the building led to a decision to transact with the Kern High School District. The Board of Directors recognize the imagination and effort that went toward moving into the building and specifically thank donors like the ones who are still listed on a plaque in the entryway. Donors include familiar family names such as Thomson, Starrh, Crettol, Laverty, Pankey, Lake, Atkinson, Carter, Holloway, Houchin, Wegis, Young, Nickel, Hodge, Almberg, Jelmini, Mitchell, Voss, Turnipseed, Siler, and Belloumini. Notable companies such as Tejon Ranch, Chevron, Simplot, Calcot, and PG&E are also listed on the plaque. These generous individuals and businesses allowed the KCFB to advocate on behalf of nearly two generations of agricultural industry professionals, and we thank them emphatically.
The contributions of past generations do not go unnoticed. In the (former) boardroom there is a wall of Presidents spanning from the early 1900s to now and historical files in corner offices that shed light on how far the industry has come over the past 100 years. They are an insight into the resiliency of the industry and an homage to farmers and ranchers as tough as the weather, soils, and markets in which they deal on a day to day basis. The efforts of past advocates have allowed for upward trends in value today that would be incomprehensible to previous generations. Now the onus is on current advocates to protect the legacy and implement a positive vision to the benefit of future generations.
The organization looks to the future with gratitude for the past. As we shift from a permanent structure to a remote working environment, the conquest to find a new home for the KCFB begins. The fluidity of pandemi-California allows the organization and the Board of Directors time to find the right home for our storied organization, and we vow to do so for those who came before us and those to come. Thank you for your continued support of the Kern County Farm Bureau and here is to the future.