Today marks 50 years since the Illinois Agricultural Association moved into the complex at 1701 Towanda Avenue in Bloomington.
The Illinois Agricultural Association is the legal entity that operates as Illinois Farm Bureau. Prior to 1961, IFB was headquartered in Chicago at 43 E. Ohio Street.
IFB president Philip Nelson says it's quite an accomplishment to be in the same spot for 50 years. He says IFB's commitment to creating a solid grassroots network of producers has not changed throughout the years.
"I seem to think that we may be facing more challenges now than we were in the past," Nelson adds. "Though, I'm sure the leaders thought the same thing when they moved to Bloomington 50 years ago."
Since IAA made the move to Bloomington, many of the country's urban centers have lost the connection to the farm. Now, more than ever, Nelson says it's important to bridge the connection between rural farms and the streets of Chicago.
Two key programs help make the connection today. The Adopt a Legislator program connects rural farmers with Cook County legislators. The most recent effort to engage Chicago is called Illinois Farm Families. Through this program, Chicago moms can connect with farm moms to learn the truth about food production in Illinois.
Looking back, IFB's delegates officially voted to move the headquarters downstate on March 24, 1958. As is typical when an organization makes a momentous change, a number of interesting facts surround the move.
Nine other downstate cities were also considered before Bloomington became the final choice;
The architects who designed the IAA building also designed Chicago's Wrigley Building, Merchandise Mart, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Civic Opera House and the old main Chicago post office;
IFB offices were temporarily housed at Illinois Wesleyan University during construction;Construction was finished six months ahead of schedule and $350,000 under budget.