One Saturday morning in October of 1910, delegates from 12 neighborhood Farmers’ Union organizations met at the Mitchell County Courthouse in Beloit, Kansas to form a countywide chapter of the Farmers’ Education and Cooperative Union of America.
By 1911, with the charter in place, the Farmers’ Union Association was born and—as a farmer-owned petroleum cooperative—its focus centered on providing farmers with fairer prices on petroleum products and other services essential for farming operations.
Its first major purchase included oil storage tanks near the railroad in Beloit and two draft horses for the transportation of gasoline to its producers.
In 1915, it was renamed the Mitchell County Farmers Union Co-op Association.
New services and products were continuously offered by the Mitchell County Farmers’ Union Co-op Association and, with the introduction of cream stations, grocery stores and new elevators with up-to-date equipment, the cooperative continued to expand and grow.
At the 1948 Annual Meeting, members voted to start an expansion program to build new elevators at the Cooperative’s locations in Mitchell County. Included in the expansion were new service stations, new fertilizer facilities and bulk fueling sites.
In the late 1960’s, the Cooperative expanded into Lincoln County and, as a result, appointed a committee to create a new name for the Mitchell County Farmers’ Union Co-op Association. In 1968, the Cooperative held a naming contest where more than 300 possible new names were submitted—three of which ultimately came before the Board of Directors.
By unanimous decision, the Board elected to use Farmway Co-op, Inc. We have certainly come a long way since that first meeting in the Mitchell County Courthouse in October 1910.
Two former Farmway Co-op general managers, John Shulte (1935–1969) and Fritz Gwin (1969–1986) demonstrated the necessary leadership qualities to be elected and serve as Board Chairmen of the regional cooperative, Farmland Industries, Inc., in Kansas City. Retired CEO Byron Ulery (1986–2002) received the distinguished Dreyer Award from Farmland Industries in December 1995. The Dreyer Award was established in 1969 in honor of Frank Dreyer, a director of the Adams County Consumers Cooperative in Brighton, Colorado to recognize a general manager in the Farmland System who best demonstrated leadership and management ability resulting in the steady growth of a local cooperative. Byron Ulery retired from Farmway Co-op on March 29, 2002.
Bob Fifield served as CEO of Farmway from April 1, 2002 through August 31, 2007. Art Duerksen took over as CEO of Farmway on February 4, 2008 and continues to lead the Cooperative into the next decade and beyond. In 2011, Farmway celebrated its 100th Anniversary.