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Floyd County: Farm Bureau

Rooted In Rome

The Georgia Farm Bureau office serving Floyd County got its roots 85 years ago when farmers from seven counties in Northwest Georgia met to find a way to support the agriculture community across the upper Coosa Valley.

When the group was officially created in July 1937, some 50 farmers¬†representing more than 25 counties came together for the inaugural “Assembly of Delegates.” Since then, the organization has grown statewide and now has a central state office in Macon. Farm Bureau has also grown into a leading insurer of agri-businesses and is a proponent of public policy for both small farmers and larger corporate farming interests. “It was established originally to provide insurance for its members. It was originally all farmers,” said Cleve Jackson, a Cave Spring beef cattle farmer who serves as the vice-president of the Floyd County unit. “Traditional insurance companies would not provide coverage on the things that farmers needed coverage on, like their farms and equipment.”
The Floyd County Farm Bureau office, located at 725 East Second Avenue, is in one of Rome’s oldest and most historic homes, the¬†Dr. Robert Battey house. The home, built in 1851, was originally located on South Street, now known as East First Avenue. It was relocated to its current site to save it from demolition in 1974.

Over the years, Farm Bureau has morphed into what more folks recognize as an insurance company. However, Jackson said the local office is still very much involved in the advocacy side for farmers and the educational aspects. Irwin Bagwell, also from the Cave Spring area, said his family has been members of the Farm Bureau for as long as he can remember. In fact, Bagwell and Jackson’s fathers were board members together years ago. With his wife and father, Jackson has a beef cattle ranch west of Cave Spring that has grown from three bred heifers to a herd of more than 100.

Bagwell said Farm Bureau remains a strong voice for the agriculture community at the state and national levels. But, according to Bagwell, one of the biggest issues is the loss of farmland. "Once you lose an acre of farmland, it never reverts back to farmland," Bagwell said.

Jackson said that Floyd County Farm Bureau does a lot across the community to educate people about where their food comes from. "We have worked with the Rome Area History Center, and in a few months, you should see an exhibit featuring the history of Rome and Floyd County's agriculture in the front window of the Rome Area History Center," Jackson said. "It's a key priority for us as the Floyd County Farm Bureau."

His wife, Emilia, is an ag teacher and Future Farmers of America chapter advisor at Pepperell High School, so agri-business is very much in the family blood. Cleve was the 2021 winner of the 2021 Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet.

It’s not unusual to see a Farm Bureau booth at the Coosa Valley Fair to help get the word out about the importance of farming.

The Floyd County Farm Bureau office has nearly 1,400 residents enrolled in its insurance programs. However, Jackson estimates that fewer than 200 would be considered farm families today. This is because Farm Bureau has had to change with the times over the past 80 years. "Today, I do not believe there is as much crop insurance, quite as much focus on that anymore as those programs have become more widely available through other avenues," Jackson said. Those other avenues include the large government-operated crop insurance packages. Today, Jackson said Farm Bureau doesn't pigeon-hole itself into providing insurance-related services to farmers or farm-related businesses. "We want to give anybody the opportunity to be a part of our organization, but I think that opens the door to educate folks on the rural and agricultural lifestyles," Jackson said.

In addition, the company is a supporter of local farmers at many Farmer's Markets in the area.