The year is 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower is president. Just over half of American households proudly own a television. (1%, by the way, are color sets.) The McDonalds Corporation opens its very first fast-food restaurant. Pollsters find America’s favorite meal is fruit cup, steak and potatoes, peas, rolls with butter, and pie a la mode. And… the National Farm-City Committee is born.
Fast forward to 2005. Nearly every home in America has one (or more!) color TVs. Fast food has become a staple of the American diet. Sushi, pizza, bottled water and all manner of ethnic cuisine are standard fare. And… the National Farm-City Council celebrates its 50th anniversary.
There’s little doubt that the world has changed dramatically in the last five decades, but the interdependence of our nation’s rural and urban residents has not.
With a nod to the past, and an eye to the future, the National Farm-City Council celebrated the organization’s 50th anniversary with a special luncheon fittingly held at the Indianapolis, Indiana, International Headquarters of the Kiwanis, an organization which played a central role in the creation of the Farm-City cause.
The luncheon (held during the week immediately proceeding Thanksgiving that is designated annually as National Farm-City Week) was a time to celebrate the contributions of countless individuals and organizations who have worked to strengthen the ties between rural and urban folk.
The idea for the first Farm-City Week began as Charles Dana Bennett, an independent entrepreneur from Vermont, and Merle H. Tucker, the 1955 Chairman of the Kiwanis International Agriculture and Conservation Committee, were seated together on a train headed from Chicago to Washington, D.C. During the trip, the two talked about the poor public image of agriculture, the strong urban influence of agricultural policies, and the growing population with no direct ties to the farm. It seemed to them that farm and city people were destined to drift further apart, and they realized that positive public relations between farm and city dwellers must be improved.
With the support of the Kiwanis, Bennett took these ideas public. Soon other organizations began to support the Farm-City cause, with the Kiwanis, joined by the American Farm Bureau Federation, leading the way. The Kiwanis served as the coordination agency for the National Farm-City Committee until 1988, when the American Farm Bureau Federation assumed the responsibility.
The efforts to establish better understanding between farm and city dwellers continues to this day. Across the country, countless local Farm-City Committees, youth and civic groups, Chambers of Commerce, producers, agricultural businesses, and other organizations serve their communities by educating youth and adults about the interdependence of agriculture and industry.
To everyone who has supported the National Farm-City Council over the past five decades, thank you for your part in helping to strengthen the bonds between farms and cities.