The organization began when a group of farmers from seven counties in Northwest Georgia
met at the Bartow County courthouse on June 17, 1937.
Farmers from Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Gordon, Floyd, Polk and Paulding counties attended the meeting organized by Robert M. Stiles, a Bartow County farmer, because they needed a farmer-led organization to represent them. A second meeting, attended by 50 farmers from 25 counties, was held in Atlanta on July 31, 1937. During this meeting, the farmers formed the United Georgia Farmers and elected Stiles president of the organization.
“Through the years, Georgia Farm Bureau has grown as it began offering member services requested by its members, such as insurance, but its core mission - to be the Voice of Georgia’s farmers - hasn’t changed. Beginning with those first 50 farmers, Georgia Farm Bureau has been, and will continue to be, a grassroots organization whose actions are determined by its members,” said GFB President Zippy Duvall.
As the organization continued to grow, GFB hired its first two field representatives in 1947. These employees assisted in organizing more county chapters and served as liaisons between the county chapters and the state organization. Today, GFB has a field representative for each of its 10 districts.
In 1958, insurance services were not readily available to rural Georgians, so GFB members voted to establish their own insurance company. The Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (GFBMIC) began operations on Jan. 2, 1959. The GFBMIC is owned 100 percent by GFB policyholders, and today is the largest Georgia-based personal lines property casualty insurance company.
County Farm Bureau offices began opening at this time with two paid employees – a secretary and insurance agent. Today, GFB has 158 county offices. Each county office is affiliated with GFB but operates under its own autonomy and is governed by a local board of directors.
“Georgia Farm Bureau started because a group of farmers saw the need to band together to advocate for things people in rural Georgia needed,” said Henry West, Gordon County Farm Bureau president. “In the late 1940s rural Georgians couldn’t get hospitalization insurance and so Georgia Farm Bureau worked to change this. Once the Georgia legislature changed the state law, rural Georgians needed a company to provide insurance, and so Georgia Farm Bureau started its own company and began providing insurance as a member service. Many people think Georgia Farm Bureau is just an insurance company and don’t realize we started as an organization to advocate for farmers and rural Georgia, which we continue to do. Insurance is just a part of what we do.”
Gordon County Farm Bureau’s first office was located on Red Bud Rd. The county Farm Bureau moved to its current location at 487 West Belmont Drive in 1985.
“Gordon County Farm Bureau truly is a local organization. Our county staff lives here, so they know the residents of Gordon County and can serve our members well because they care about our community,” said West. “Some people join our organization because they want to support the work we do on behalf of farmers and rural Georgia. Others join Farm Bureau because they want to gain access to our many member benefits. You don’t have to be a farmer to purchase Farm Bureau insurance, and you don’t have to purchase insurance to be a Farm Bureau member.”
In the past 75 years, GFB has been led by 11 state presidents: Robert L. Stiles (1937-1941) of Bartow County; Harry L. Wingate (1941-1957) of Mitchell County; John P. Duncan Jr. (1957-1961) of Brooks County; Harry L. Brown (1961-1964) of Rabun County; William L. Lanier (1964-1970) of Candler County; W.J. McKemie (1970) of Clay County; H. Emmett Reynolds (1970-1978) of Crisp County; Robert L. Nash (1978-1988) of Upson County; T.M. “Mort” Ewing (1988-1994) of Newton County; Wayne Dollar (1994-2006) of Thomas County and Zippy Duvall (2006-present) of Greene County. Voting delegates at the GFB annual convention elect the GFB president to a two-year term.
Today Farm Bureau member benefits have expanded to include health services, banking services, identity theft restoration, $500 bonus cash savings on eligible Ford vehicles, discounts on hotels, rental cars, amusement park tickets, prescription drugs, hearing supplements, lasik surgery, long-distance telephone service, purchases through Grainger and Jiffy Lube.
To learn more, contact the Gordon County Farm Bureau office at 706-629-3144 or visit www.gfb.org.