State Farm, George Mecherle, and Farm Bureau / Illinois Farm Bureau and World War II / Beans, Gas, & Ben Franklin: The IAA…A Cooperative Story / The Power of Associaton

There have been three books written about the history of Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB). The first one was published in 1965 and is titled Farm Bureau in Illinois. It was written by John J. Lacey who served as the long-time director of information for American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) from 1936 to 1957. Following his retirement from AFBF, Lacey worked as information director for IFB.  Following that he was commissioned by IFB to write Farm Bureau in Illinois to help recognize IFB’s 50th anniversary in 1966.

The second book, The Diamond Harvest, was published in 1990 in time to help recognize IFB’s 75th anniversary celebrated in 1991. The authors of The Diamond Harvest are Dan Leifel and Norma Maney. Leifel served as the lead researcher and author, and is recognized as IFB’s unofficial historian. Leifel served IFB for 27 years as an attorney in the organization’s office of the general counsel. Maney was the editor of the book, and served IFB for many years as an executive administrative assistant in the office of the general counsel, as well as in the office of the IFB president, and as secretary of the organization, prior to her retirement. The Diamond Harvest provides a review of the major historical highlights contained in the Lacey book, and then tells the history of IFB from where the Lacey book left off in 1963, to the point when The Diamond Harvest was published in 1990.

Some months after Dan Leifel announced his intention to retire in early 2005, the IFB Board and Management Team commissioned Leifel to write an update to The Diamond Harvest to cover IFB’s history from 1990 to 2005. Leifel, with writing and research assistance from IFB staff members Steve Simms and Barb Stille, authored an excellent review of the first 90 years of IFB history, once again drawing from the Lacy book, and The Diamond Harvest. Leifel also provided new insight into the philosophical changes in IFB and the men who led IFB through those changes. The new book, “Improving the Economic Well-Being of Agriculture:”  A History of the Illinois Farm Bureau, also provides excellent detail of the organization’s major activities throughout the 1990s and into the 21st Century. And finally it offers an analysis of what IFB will have to do in the decades to come  to survive in the ever-changing worlds of agriculture and society.   

All three books are available for purchase through the IAA Foundation. Also for sale through the IAA Foundation is a 24-minute video/DVD that was produced in 2004 called The History of Illinois Farm Bureau. It features interviews with past and current IFB presidents, long-time members, politicians, and past IFB staff members.

Anticipating Mr. Leifel’s retirement in 2005, it became clear a new group of IFB employees needed to be “trained” to be able to speak to Farm Bureau and civic groups about the history of IFB. A series of monthly workshops/lectures was organized in 2003 and 2004 whereby Leifel served as group leader and moderator. The class of fifteen was given reading assignments from Farm Bureau in Illinois and The Diamond Harvest, and each month participated in a discussion of the material contained in the reading assignment. To “graduate” from the class, each participant was required to select a specific subject from a list provided by Leifel, research it, write a speech/paper, and make a presentation to the class. The subjects of some of these speeches/papers are listed below and can be read by clicking on the link with the title. These essays were also edited and included in the new Leifel history book.