‘Dad’s Farm Bureau Stuff’ a Junior FB treasure trove
By Jeremy C. Nagel
CONWAY TWP., LIVINGSTON COUNTY— Brian and Cindy Dickerson will have begun their new life in Tennessee by the time this gets to print. Brian’s taking some pigs with them.
“It’s a habit I can’t break yet,” he admitted.
He got that habit from his dad, L.D. Dickerson, who spent most of his life as a farmer and livestock breeder.
“My grandpa was Earl,” Brian explained. “My dad was L.D., and Earl Jr. was his brother—my uncle.”
L.D. graduated from high school in 1938, then went through Michigan State’s ag-tech program and “did the dairy thing,” as Brian puts it, milking cows and starting a small dairy on rented land near Howell. He couldn’t buy it outright when it went up for sale, so he settled for the Fowlerville place instead—where Brian grew up and has remained ever since.
When L.D. passed away, almost a decade ago, Brian acquired his father’s collection of Farm Bureau memorabilia, including two scrapbooks documenting his days in Junior Farm Bureau: one a nondescript three-ring binder, the other ornately bound with a hand-made wooden cover, fancy metal hinges and leather laces.
“They’ve been in my possession for years. Just looking at the cover, I was like, ‘I can’t throw these out,” Brian said, but he could—and has—entrusted them back to the organization that inspired their creation and helped root three generations of his family in Michigan agriculture.
“When I heard Farm Bureau’s centennial was coming up, it was perfect timing.”
Begun in 1935, Junior Farm Bureau was the organization’s earliest program aimed at equipping the industry’s up-and-coming generation with some of the skills they’d need to succeed in farming. The precursor to today’s Young Farmer program, Junior Farm Bureau was wildly successful at bridging the gap separating rural youth programs like 4-H and FFA from leadership opportunities in working industry groups like Farm Bureau.
That bridge guided L.D. Dickerson toward a lifetime of involvement, including a stint as Livingston County Farm Bureau president. Later in life he’d revisit his Junior Farm Bureau days, attending reunions and reliving events that made deep impressions on him as a young buck.
In a biographical sketch preserved in one of his own scrapbooks, L.D., then retired, recalled fondly a cross-country Junior Farm Bureau junket to San Francisco:
“More than the attractions we saw along the way, the most vivid memories are of the fellowship and close family feeling that developed … in spite, or maybe because of, all the physical and mechanical problems that developed (traveling on a worn out bus, two new motors, flat tires, caved in roof, flop house hotel in Frisco, traveling late at nite to keep on schedule, peanut and jelly sandwiches on the bus for lunch)
“No one ever complained but made the best of any situation. What a great bunch of kids that shared that trip. I think we all came home better persons because of the experience.
“I am thankful for the great memories I have from that trip.”
“Dad did some crop farming, had a few beef cattle and built a pig finishing barn—he used to contract feeder pigs through Farm Bureau,” Brian recalls. “He did that for a while then worked as an AI tech for Michigan Animal Breeders’ Cooperative for a lot of years.”
L.D.’s livestock savvy rubbed off on Brian and his siblings.
“I’m the youngest. I have a brother and two sisters. In 4-H they started off with beef cattle—showed steers at the fair,” he remembers. “For some reason they never did pigs, but I was the one, far as the kids go, who started the pig thing about halfway through 4-H.”
Brian made his career outside agriculture, but “the pig thing” stuck with him as a 4-H swine leader and pig barn superintendent at the Livingston County Fair.
NOTE: This isn’t the first voluminous Farm Bureau scrapbook we’ve run across. They’re informative documents that help fill in the details of your local farm community’s legacy. So be on the lookout for them, and share your findings with your county Farm Bureau’s Local History Team. Learn and share more at MFB100.COM.