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Exploring the Farm Bureaus past
1950 Herbert W. Kessler
Herbert Kessler

As our Christmas approaches and the year 2014 ends, I know we will all be enjoying lots of good food and fellowship. Without farmers none of our tables would be graced with the food we all plan to consume. In a different kind of Christmas story, I am going to tell you about the history of the Farm Bureau in Effingham County. We have two chapters, Springfield and Marlow. Each chapter has officers. There are elected county officers as well and the organization operates with an elected board of directors.

How did this organization begin? A group of farmers from seven counties in northwest Georgia met in the Bartow County Courthouse on June 17, 1937, at the request of Bartow County farmer Robert M. Stiles. He believed there was a need for a farmer-led organization to support Georgia agriculture. The result of the meeting was the formation of the United Georgia Farmers.

The organization that would become Georgia Farm Bureau was officially created on July 31, 1937. Fifty Georgia “dirt farmers” representing 25 counties attended the first Assembly of Delegates. One of their first orders of business was to elect Stiles as president. An annual assembly, now called convention, was held Dec. 7-9 at Jekyll Island. The Effingham County Farm Bureau was represented by a group of officers, board of director members and voting delegates who look forward to the annual event.

Since its inception, the primary and ongoing goal of Farm Bureau is to be a united voice in the legislative arena, to promote farm markets and to provide leadership to Georgia’s agricultural community. Farm Bureau is local, state, national and international in scope and influence. Beginning with the first group of 50 men, this organization has been, and will continue to be, a grassroots organization.

Effingham County Farm Bureau was chartered in 1941 and they had 89 farmer members. By 1948 our county group had grown to 363 farmer members.

My paternal grandfather Leon G. Exley was the first president, serving from 1941-46. The vice president during 1941-42 was my maternal grandfather, J. Bruce Hinely.

Edward A. Gnann served as president for 1947-48. D.L. Tuttle served one year in 1949 as president. In 1950, Herbert Kessler served one year as president.

To be continued next week…

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with information from If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: