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A foundation of leadership

James R. Howard, Ruth Buxton Sayre, Dean kleckner

The success of the Iowa Farm Bureau has been built on the strength of many visionary men and women who saw the need for a strong organization to represent farm families and rural Iowa. These leaders understood the value in working together to better their families, their communities and their state and their legacy lives on.

James R. Howard
James R. Howard of Marshall County was the first president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and later was elected president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

Howard realized that the era of pioneer farming was over, and knew that farmers needed to speak with one voice to have influence. He took that message to the county, state and, ultimately, to the national level, helping to spearhead the formation of the AFBF.

Speaking at the first AFBF convention, Howard said: “The county Farm Bureaus enabled us to look over our line fences, the state organizations enabled us to work on our state problems and now, we have before us the possibility of a national association to create the national agricultural spirit.”

Ruth Buxton Sayre
Ruth Buxton Sayre was one of the earliest Farm Bureau leaders and earned the name “First Lady of the Farm.”

Sayre helped found the women’s division of the Iowa Farm Bureau in the 1920s. Traveling from farm to farm in her Model T Ford, she built support for Farm Bureau and for women’s programs.

Sayre later advanced into national and international leadership roles as the chair of both the Associated Women of the American Farm Bureau and Associated Country Women of the World, a global organization that’s still in existence today. Sayre also served as the only woman on President Dwight Eisenhower’s Farm Advisory Committee.

Sayre’s passion for farming and support for farm women always showed through. As she said at the time of her state election, it is only by working together for their mutual interests that farm families “can have any hope of solving problems of their farm home, whether they are economic, educational or cultural.”

Dean R. Kleckner
Dean Kleckner, who was president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and of the American Farm Bureau Federation from 1986 to 2000, worked hard to build export markets and support farmers’ incomes. Growing up in Floyd County, he had a plain-speaking manner, a keen sense of humor, great listening skills and a sharp memory which helped him build strong relationships everywhere he went. And that was a lot of places.

In all, Kleckner traveled to more than 80 countries and met countless foreign leaders, ag ministers and countless thousands of others to help pry open doors for additional sales of grains and meats for farmers in Iowa and around the country. Kleckner’s vision for the future of U.S. agriculture stretched far and wide, all around the globe, and Iowa farmers and all Iowans are much better off because of that.



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