MORRIS – It’s an idea that’s been discussed for decades, but early this year farm bureau members in Grundy and Kendall counties will vote on whether or not to merge the bureaus.
The idea became serious about seven years ago, Kendall County Farm Bureau Manager Dan Reedy said, but talks stalled then as well. Then Reedy announced his retirement.
“I announced my retirement early enough so if they decided to pick up the opportunity to discuss it again, they could,” Reedy said.
After more than 37 years at the Kendall County Farm Bureau, Reedy is retiring in February, which is when the two organizations would merge.
But before that, the membership has to have a say. On Jan. 9, members of the Kendall County Farm Bureau will vote, and the next day Grundy County farmers will vote at their annual meeting on whether or not to approve the merger.
“There’s strength in numbers,” said Victoria Wax, manager of the Grundy County Farm Bureau. “That’s the whole idea behind Farm Bureau.”
Wax said the timing was right for the merger, with Reedy’s retirement, and both farm bureaus are in good shape financially and in membership. Merging, however, would provide a stronger foundation for the future.
“Every year we see a drop in membership,” Wax said. “Nothing drastic, but merging the two farm bureaus would be a proactive move to counter the negative effects of declining membership and dues.”
Reedy said both bureaus are in a good financial position.
“Neither side has been negotiating from a negative standpoint,” he said.
Both farm bureaus have about 3,500 total members apiece, with Grundy having 635 voting members and Kendall having 498. Geographically, both farm bureaus cover a similarly-sized area.
Farm bureaus throughout the state have merged in recent years. In September, the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau began operation after the merger of the two individual bureaus. They will undergo a three-year transition period.
In 2012, the Boone and Winnebago county farm bureaus voted to merge, forming the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau.
In both mergers, feedback from farmers involved said the move was positive.
That’s the same feedback Wax and Reedy have been hearing from their members.
“Overall, the feedback has been positive,” Wax said. “Some not, but it’s good to have their questions, too. We want to listen to both sides and meet their needs.”
Should both organizations approve the merger, it would be known as the Kendall-Grundy Farm Bureau, Wax said. It mirrors other organization names, such as the Kendall-Grundy Beef Association.
The Morris office of the Grundy County Farm Bureau would become the new headquarters for the combined organization, and Wax would be its manager. While some farmers in Kendall County would be farther away from the new building, Morris is the geographical center of the new territory.
The Kendall County Farm Bureau building has always been the farm bureau, Reedy said, and was built for that purpose. It used to hold cold storage lockers in the basement.