(Contributed photo)

WATSONVILLE — On June 22, the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau will call to order at its annual meeting for the 100th time.

The meeting, which kicks off at Watsonville Slough Farms at 5:45 p.m., will celebrate the accomplishments of the organization in the past century. 

Around 1914, a number of agricultural colleges began reaching out to farmers across the country. There was a need for organization — for a way to distribute information and improve marketing methods between farmers and advisors.

The Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau (SCCFB) was one of the very first Farm Bureaus, established in 1917. Local Farm Advisor Henry Washburn and ranch owner Theadore Hoover (brother to president Herbert Hoover) were two pivotal players in forming the bureau.

Throughout its history SCCFB has remained a grassroots organization, working within the community to support those involved in the many branches of agriculture.

“We’ve continued to be a very progressive, forward-thinking organization,” said Jess Brown, current executive director. “It has great value in a community like ours.”

Brown, who noted he has worked for the organization for decades, said that SCCFB has always tried to stay ahead of the curve in all areas of agriculture — and in particular, organic farming.

“It seems obvious today, but back in the day people were hesitant to embrace organic practices,” Brown said. “We’ve done our best to remain a leader for the nation in that respect.”

Earlier this year, SCCFB released “100 Ag-Related Activities to do in Celebration of Farm Bureau’s Centennial Year.” The list includes everything from visiting U-Pick farms and buying local produce to supporting various educational programs in the county.

One of these is the Focus Agriculture program, developed in the 1990s through the Agri-Culture organization. The goal of the program is to educate community leaders about the importance of agriculture. It has inspired a number of other similar organizations across the country.

At its centennial meeting, the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau will announce the 2017 Farmer of the Year. California’s Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross will be this year’s featured speaker.

“This is a time to reflect back, to collect history and recognize the progress we’ve made,” Brown said.

For information on the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and the 100th Anniversary Celebration, visit sccfb.com or call (831) 724-1356.

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