We're excited and thankful the Oregon Farm Bureau chose Pendleton for its 75th annual meeting. And bringing the organization back to its roots is just one of our reasons.

The first organization of its kind was established in 1912 as a bureau of the Binghamton, N.Y., Chamber of Commerce, hence the name Farm Bureau. Within two years it was operating an independent organization in Broome County, N.Y.

As farmers began searching for a unified voice, the word spread of the successful New York model and farmers in other states began organizing. Missouri farmers organized the first state Farm Bureau in 1915.

Four years later, farmers from 12 states met in New York where they formed the American Farm Bureau. At the same time efforts were under way in Oregon to establish this state's first farming organization.

It all began with Mac Hoke, president of Cunningham Sheep Co. and county agent from Wallowa County. The families of his daughters, Joan Corey and Mary Levy, still run the outfit today. Hoke organized a meeting in Heppner with three other agents to discuss the need for a Umatilla County Farm Bureau. It became Oregon's first bureau with R.O. Earnhart of South Cold Springs Canyon as the first president.

Thirteen years later, Hoke gathered members of the Umatilla County Farm Bureau together in Pilot Rock, at the home of his business partner, Don Cameron. The group established the Oregon Farm Bureau there and elected Hoke its first president. He served 13 years until the mid-1940s. Hoke Hall at Eastern Oregon University is his namesake.

As current president of the Umatilla-Morrow Farm Bureau, Julia Spratling of Helix welcomed fellow farmers from throughout the state to Pendleton Tuesday morning. She reminded them they're in an area where, like Oregon as a whole, agriculture is diverse. She cited the wide variety of feed and food crops farmers in this region produce.

She also reminded the convention participants, many of whom are from western Oregon, that this region's rainfall ranges from 7 inches annually in Morrow County to 18 inches in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

We, too, welcome Farm Bureau members back to Umatilla County and hope they're enjoying our western hospitality. There's lots to do and see and the area is rich with more than just Farm Bureau history, as many of the participants learned Wednesday afternoon and evening during tours and watching our famous Wild West Show.

We hope the Oregon Farm Bureau will put Pendleton on its convention schedule again in the next few years. We certainly don't want to wait to be a host until the organization's centennial in 2032.

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