Farms and Cities: Partners in Progress

Since 1955, National Farm-City Week has linked our nation’s rural and urban people. Founded by Kiwanis International, the week was established to unify all American workers –— on and off the farm. With an ongoing theme, “Partners in Progress,” National Farm-City Week has increased understanding between two vital parts of our nation.

The beginning stages of National Farm-City Week were formed on a train moving toward Washington, D.C. Charles Dana Bennett, an independent entrepreneur from Vermont, and Merle H. Tucker, the 1955 Chairman of the Kiwanis International Agriculture and Conservation Committee, visited about the poor public image of agriculture, the strong urban influence of agricultural policies and the growing population with no direct ties to the farm. It seemed farm and city people were destined to pull further apart. They realized positive public relations between farm and city dwellers must improve.

Their conversation echoed the findings of a survey conducted by Farm Journal. In 1955, the nation’s largest farm publication surveyed 450 farmers across the U.S. asking for suggestions to help agriculture. Improving public relations was among the top five recommendations.

Boost for Agriculture, Industry

National Farm-City Week originated in 1955 when farmers were facing financial hardships. The agricultural industry lost 1 million farms between 1950 and 1955. Net farm income declined, and farm costs, debts and property taxes were rising. Declining economic conditions yielded a poor public perception of struggling farmers.

Kiwanis recognized farmers were going through difficult times. The organization led the drive for an improved image of agriculture. In 1955, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) joined Kiwanis in their beliefs.

“One of the big jobs farmers have is to do a good job of public relations,” said newly elected AFBF president Charles Shuman.

Involvement Strengthens Farm-City Program

Kiwanis was a natural supporting organization because of its existing interest in agriculture. The Kiwanis organization became heavily involved after its 1955 congressional dinner in Washington, D.C., with all members of the Kiwanis International Board present.

The organization became the coordinating agency for the National Farm-City Committee, a role which continued until 1988 when AFBF assumed the responsibility.

National Recognition

Sen. George Aiken from Vermont persuaded Congress to recognize Farm-City Week and requested an annual presidential proclamation. With encouragement from organizations and people, the idea of National Farm-City Week grew to have an annually designated week starting the Friday before Thanksgiving and ending on Thanksgiving Day.

Thus was born Farm-City Week. Out of the faith of well-intentioned farm and city people, an effort was and continues to be made to ensure a more sound, friendlier course between rural and urban dwellers. National Farm-City Week is a broadly based program including producers, agricultural organizations, businesses and youth and civic clubs. Farm-City programs serve communities throughout the U.S. and Canada by educating youth and adults about the interdependence of agriculture and industry.

Continuing Legacy

In 2014, the National Farm-City Council Inc. transferred leadership for National Farm-City Week to the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), which sponsors National Ag Day each spring. ACA is composed of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities dedicated to increasing public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in society. The National Ag Day program began in 1973.

The merger of the two observances allows Farm-City volunteers to plan year-round activities aimed at education, outreach and promotion — beginning with National Ag Day in spring and culminating with Farm-City Week in fall.

The Farm-City and Ag Day legacy is one of understanding and cooperation. Cultivated by the tireless work of volunteers in communities throughout the country, these observances yield a harvest of appreciation for the interdependence of farmers and their city neighbors.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving week has been recognized as Farm-City week.