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Records of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

 Collection
Identifier: ARMF

Scope and Contents

The Records of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union consists of materials dated 1897 to 2009, with the bulk falling from 1950 to 1990. Materials in the collection provide insights into the economic, political, technological, and environmental issues confronting family farmers in Colorado and adjacent states during the past century. The collection consists primarily of records documenting the activities of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and its members, but there is also historical information concerning local and county unions as well as the national organization, sponsored marketing cooperatives, and related insurance companies. Despite some gaps (notably in the first two decades of the organization's existence and during the 1970s and 1980s) there are fairly complete runs of board of directors meeting minutes starting in 1925, and materials from state conventions beginning in 1931, through the late 1960s. Material types include meeting minutes, governance documents, correspondence, reports and press releases, convention and youth camp documents, publications, scrapbooks, clippings, photographs, phonograph recordings, audio cassettes, videotapes, and artifacts.

Dates

  • 1897-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1950-1990

Creator

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. However, it is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.

History

The programs and policies of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) have supported the successful operation of family farms and ranches for over a century. Eleven months after the organization of the first Colorado local unit of the National Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union (NFU), a state union was formed at a meeting in Pueblo on April 17, 1908. Originally incorporated as the Colorado Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union (CFU), the association changed its name to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in 1942 to allow for the potential admission of members in the states of Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona. At the time of its centennial celebration in 2007, membership in the RMFU included the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

George B. Lang, a former schoolteacher, journalist, and union organizer, was elected as the first president of the Colorado organization. Other notable presidents include James G. ("Jim") Patton, who led the Colorado union for two years before being elected president of the NFU in 1940; Patton's successor Harvey R. Solberg, who presided over the state organization for 21 years; and third-generation German-Russian farmer John Stencel III. Stencel grew up on a farm in Weld County, Colorado; participated actively in Farmers Union youth activities; served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army; and earned a degree with majors in agriculture and social science from Colorado State University. He was elected as RMFU president in 1970 at the age of 28 and served in that capacity for a total of 30 years. During an eight-year hiatus in his presidency, while he served as an administrator for the United States Farm Service Agency, Stencel was succeeded by David E. ("Dave") Carter, who ushered the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union into the 21st century.

The Farmers Union focuses its efforts to assist family farmers in the areas of education, legislation, and cooperation, often presenting this three-fold mission visually as the three sides of an equilateral triangle. Educational programs to facilitate the farmers' knowledge of agricultural and legislative issues are provided at the local, county, state, and national level. Since 1936, summer camps have been offered for the children of union members, and the NFU established a permanent location in 1960 for these camps and other educational activities in the mountains west of Denver near Bailey, Colorado. Young people attend camp and work on educational projects to fulfill the requirements for the Torchbearer award, which is presented at the RMFU annual convention.

Conventions of the RMFU and NFU provide opportunities for union members to elect leaders and draft annual policies and programs to guide the efforts of the organization, particularly in the promotion of pro-family farm legislation at the state and national levels. RMFU annual conventions were held in Denver, Colorado, until 1964. After that year, the convention locations have alternated between Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming. More recent venues include the Colorado cities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Greeley. The RMFU offices and related insurance companies have been headquartered at several different locations in the Denver area, and during the lengthy NFU presidency of Jim Patton, the national headquarters was located in Denver as well.

Other educational opportunities for Farmers Union members include the RMFU Fellows program, created in 1987 to enhance knowledge, leadership skills, and political involvement among young Farmers Union members through weekend training seminars and field trips. The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Educational and Charitable Foundation (RMFU Foundation) was established in 1992 to foster activities aimed at strengthening diverse rural economies and assisting agricultural producers, families, and their communities.

Cooperative efforts of Farmers Union members began soon after the organization of the local and state unions. Early cooperative enterprises included grain elevators, creameries, farm supply stores, and oil companies. In 1919, the Colorado Farmers Union Exchange Company opened a wholesale house in Denver, and within two years, members were being encouraged to sell their livestock through the Farmers Union Livestock Commission. By 1925, the Farmers Union Milling and Elevator Company in Denver was soliciting member participation.

The Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company (FUMIC) was incorporated in Colorado as a mutual protective association in 1914, allowing Farmers Union members to purchase fire insurance at low premium rates. This encouraged Colorado farmers to join the CFU, as did the added benefit of life insurance with the Farmers Union Mutual Benefit Association, organized by Jim Patton in 1932. The life insurance company became part of the National Union Security Association (NUSA) in 1938, and members would later be offered health, casualty, and auto insurance policies.

In 1942, Farmers Union members in northern and eastern Colorado incorporated the Farmers Union Marketing Association (FUMA), and purchased the Kellogg grain elevator and feed mill in Denver. Capacity was greatly expanded in 1951 with the addition of a large grain elevator in Byers, Colorado. Initially, participation in the cooperative was limited to Farmers Union members, but in 1966 the word "Union" was removed from the name. The organization became the Farmers Marketing Association (FMA), and membership was opened to all interested farmers. Most of the association's holdings were sold to the Cargill Corporation in 1988.

The RMFU Cooperative Development Center, created in 1992, has assisted a number of efforts, including the Mountain View Harvest Cooperative (offering a value-added bakery in Longmont, Colorado), the Harmony Market (an outlet for farmers' products in Fort Collins), and the Rancher's Choice Cooperative to market kosher beef and lamb from Colorado's San Luis Valley.

Extent

95 linear feet (49 record cartons, 23 document cases, 7 flat boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The programs of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) have supported the successful operation of family farms and ranches for over a century. Organized in 1908 as the Colorado Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union (CFU), the association changed its name to the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in 1942 to include members in neighboring states. This collection documents the efforts of the RMFU to serve farmers and ranchers through education, legislation, and cooperative activities, and features materials from prominent RMFU presidents James Patton, Harvey Solberg, John Stencel III, and David Carter. There is also historical information concerning local and county unions as well as the national organization (National Farmers Union), sponsored marketing cooperatives, and related insurance companies. Material types include meeting minutes, governance documents, subject files, reports and press releases, convention and youth camp documents, publications, scrapbooks, clippings, photographs, phonograph recordings, audio cassettes, videotapes, and artifacts.

Arrangement

The collection consists of nineteen series in 49 record cartons, 23 document cases, 7 flat boxes, and 2 oversize flat boxes:

Series 1: Minutes and histories, 1925-2000 and undated

Series 2: Governance documents, 1909-2003 and undated

Series 3: Conferences and conventions, 1929-2008

Subseries 3.1: Conferences, 1951-2004

Subseries 3.2: Conventions, 1929-2008

Series 4: Educational programs and camps, 1937-1987 and undated

Series 5: Legislative projects, 1950-2004 and undated

Series 6: Press releases, 1964-2006

Series 7: Speeches and reports, 1939-2006 and undated

Series 8: Subject files, 1897-2000 and undated

Series 9: Membership, 1940-2007 and undated

Series 10: Financial documents, 1917-2000

Series 11: Related organizations, 1904-2006 and undated

Subseries 11.1: National Farmers Union, 1910-2006 and undated

Subseries 11.2: County unions, 1924-2005 and undated

Subseries 11.3: Local unions, 1909-2003 and undated

Subseries 11.4: Other related organizations, 1904-2005 and undated

Series 12: Scrapbooks and clippings, 1942-2000

Series 13: Printed material, 1915-2007 and undated

Subseries 13.1: Rocky Mountain Farmers Union materials, 1919-2007 and undated

Subseries 13.2: National Farmers Union materials, 1939-2007 and undated

Subseries 13.3: Non-Farmers Union reference materials, 1915-2006 and undated

Series 14: Photographic prints, 1900-2006 and undated

Subseries 14.1: People, c. 1930s-2003 and undated

Subseries 14.2: Events, c. 1930s-2007 and undated

Subseries 14.3: Agricultural scenes, 1935-2006 and undated

Subseries 14.4: Locations, c. 1960s-1988 and undated

Subseries 14.5: Photographs for the Union Farmer, 1971-1995 and undated

Series 15: Photographic negatives, 1963-2005 and undated

Series 16: Photographic slides, 1953-1994 and undated

Subseries 16.1: People, 1974-1983 and undated

Subseries 16.2: Events, 1954-1988 and undated

Subseries 16.3: Agricultural scenes and locations, 1953-1994 and undated

Subseries 16.4: Slide shows, 1965-1988 and undated

Series 17: Audio materials, 1956-1989 and undated

Subseries 17.1: Audio cassette tapes, 1968-1988 and undated

Subseries 17.2: Audio reel-to-reel tapes, 1953-1977 and undated

Subseries 17.3: Phonograph records, 1953-1989 and undated

Series 18: Videotapes, films, and compact discs, 1959-2006 and undated

Series 19: Artifacts, 1910-2006 and undated

Acquisition

John Stencel III, president of RMFU, donated the Records of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to the Colorado Agricultural Archive on June 4, 1981. The Colorado Agricultural Archive became part of the Colorado State University Libraries in 2004. Additional materials were donated by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website.

Related Collections

In addition to the Papers of Harvey R. Solberg, the Colorado Agricultural Archive houses the records of the Colorado State Grange, another organization which worked to support rural communities. Numerous other collections from Colorado producers' associations are also available in the Colorado Agricultural Archive, including the records of the Colorado Grain and Feed Association, the Colorado Potato Growers Exchange, the Great Western Sugar Company, the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, and the National Bison Association. The Records of the National Farmers Union, which includes newsletters and other materials relating to the activities of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, is preserved in the Labor History Collections of the Archives of the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

Separated Collections

The initial donation included 26 boxes of materials from the personal and professional papers of Harvey R. Solberg, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union from 1941-1962. These materials now form a separate collection, the Papers of Harvey R. Solberg, within the Colorado Agricultural Archive.

Processing

Processing was completed in 2009. The collection was received in disorder, although some groupings of materials were evident and it appeared that the subject files had originally been filed alphabetically. Initial processing conducted by earlier archivists included sorting photographs into subject categories. During the second phase of processing, documents were unfolded and housed in acid-free folders and boxes. The alphabetic arrangement of the subject files was restored, and other documents were arranged into logical series. Duplicates beyond two exact copies and metal paperclips and other fasteners were removed. Clippings were interleaved with acid-free paper, and photographs were placed in archival sleeves in Hollinger document cases.

Title
Guide to the Records of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Prepared by Linda M. Meyer
Date
Copyright 2009
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA
970-491-1844