Kansas Farmers Union members on State Capital steps February 1915

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

Wise Words from KFU History

Education is the brightness of the noon day sun, while ignorance is the darkness of the blackest night… Education builds, ignorance destroys. Education leads, ignorance flounders and fails. My organization teaches not only the remedy, but the source of infection that causes agricultural ills.
Esther Ekblad, NFU Education Director
I do not agree with the conclusions recently reached and expressed by one of our greatest producers and financiers that the farming of the future, to be profitable, must be on a large scale; that it must be so systematized and such labor saving be used that, at the touch of the master hand, both the mechanical and human machines will move forward in perfect coordination.
Charles Barrett, NFU President, 1926
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
It is impossible to repeat too often or to impress too deeply upon the minds of your members this truth… My organization demands equity and justice for agriculture, not more and nothing less. We mean to secure this on its own merits, not through corrupt political wire-pulling and party patronage, not through exchange of influence among our membership or political consideration; but by clean, never-ending determination and convincing argument until “the powers that be” in government have been brought to a realization that the Farmers Union program is the only just and equitable program for agriculture.”
Esther Ekblad, NFU Education Director
Parity seeks to establish a fair value for the things the farmer sells against the things he must buy. It is as though the commodities the farmer sells were put in one pan of a huge balance scale, and the articles he buys were placed in the other pan. Parity keeps the scale balanced. Prices may fluctuate, but they fluctuate evenly, so that a balance is maintained.
KFU newspaper, June 3, 1943

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.

KFU President Donn Teske, at left in photo, and NFU Historian Tom Giessel, at right in photo, Syndee spent two months organizing and making digital copies of valuable historical documents.

Kansas Farmers Union History Project

During the summer of 2012, Syndee Adams was hired as an intern through the Ogallala Commons. Syndee was charged with the monumental task of sorting through 106 boxes of Kansas Farmers Union and Farmland Industries history housed in Kansas State University’s Hale Library Archives.

These materials were obtained by the archives almost a decade earlier when Farmland Industries was undergoing bankruptcy liquidation. With direction from KFU President Donn Teske, at left in photo, and NFU Historian Tom Giessel, at right in photo, Syndee spent two months organizing and making digital copies of valuable historical documents.

Many of the documents scanned by Syndee will become available soon as PDFs in the KFU History Archives tabs below.

Syndee’s internship is documented on her Ogallala Commons blog: