PITTSFIELD, Ill. — After forty-one years with the Farm Bureau, Blake Roderick considers the role of the organization to be more important than ever.
“When there are fewer farmers, you need an organization to represent you,” Roderick said. “Farm Bureau has played a very important role in representing farmers’ interests.
“We have become very prominent as a voice for agriculture, as it was when I started, in the United States Capitol, in Springfield and in local courthouses.
Roderick is retiring Monday as executive director of the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau after decades of working on issues important years ago and still today for farmers and both counties.
Swamps. Private property rights. Water quality. Floods. Economic development. Fuels and renewable energies. Zoning to protect agriculture and livestock.
“Our mission is to help improve the quality of life for our members and the communities in which our members live,” Roderick said.
“Agriculture is basically land and water, and we have dealt with both – land issues and water issues,” he said. “When you have the Illinois River, the Mississippi River, you’re going to be involved in water issues. Dealing with lack of water. Dealing with way too much water. Water for transport. Bridges over water. Where water and land are interconnected is probably where we have been most involved.
Pike County concerns over federal wetland regulations led to a national battle over private property rights in the early 1990s and a major victory when President George H. W. Bush agreed that a wetland n There isn’t a damp place in someone’s garden.
“The desire of the federal government to regulate everything has not disappeared. We’ve pushed it back many times, but it won’t stop until Congress passes laws that say you can’t regulate every portion of water,” Roderick said.
Private property rights remain an equally important local issue.
“Not just federal or state regulations, but how companies interact with private landowners. Whether it’s a transmission line, pipeline or fiber optic cable, we have been involved in these things, representing our members and their interests,” Roderick said. “If it involves our members, we have been involved.”
Now Roderick says it’s time for him to focus on other things.
Top priorities for retirement include working on the home and gardens he shares with his wife Betsy in Pittsfield, writing projects and spending time with the grandchildren – one at Barry, two at Camp Point and three at Temple , in Texas. He will also continue to serve as Vice Chairman of the Mid-America Port Commission and the Mid-America Intermodal Authority Port District Board of Directors.
“The last two years of COVID kind of made me decide,” Roderick, 65, said. “I had spent my entire career planning and executing meetings, events, campaigns. For the past two years, I’ve planned and canceled, planned and canceled. I kind of said “Well, maybe it’s time to go.”
Roderick announced his retirement on November 10, 2021, the 40th anniversary of the date he was hired by the Pike County Farm Bureau.
Interested in “the political side of things” after earning a degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M and knowing that the Farm Bureau was involved in these issues, Roderick applied for an assistant manager position at the Sangamon County Farm Bureau and began to work on February 18. nineteen eighty one.
His first duties were working with farmers during the implementation of the state’s new farmland assessment law and writing the newsletter – work he continued to do when the prospect of a raise brought him from Springfield to Pittsfield on December 1, 1981, for manager. working with the Pike County Farm Bureau.
After never living more than three years in one place – Roderick’s father was affectionately known as a “travelling teacher” who moved his family to Illinois – he has lived in Pittsfield for 25 years and now in the same house. .
Roderick added the duties of Director in Scott County on January 1, 1987, and since September 1, 2018 served as Executive Director of the combined Pike-Scott Farm Bureau.
Pike-Scott Farm Bureau President Kim Curry said Roderick makes his job easy with his wealth of knowledge and experience.
“If it’s flood relief or fighting a bill, he knows the contacts and things are happening,” Curry said. “He was also a leadership trainer. It takes farmers out of the fields and makes them spokespersons on important agricultural issues. Elected officials want to hear from farmers.
Jenna Morrow takes over from Roderick as executive director, effective June 1, and Roderick offers some simple advice.
“Everything you do, you do for the members. They are the ones who determine the course of action for the organization,” Roderick said. “I’ve been a leader in the organization, in the community, in the state and national organization and in other state and national organizations. She’s going to step into that leadership role. I’ve been fortunate that my boards gave me a lot of rope to run around or hang myself, whatever.
Along the way, he told the story of farming in the counties and kept members informed, with a newsletter – initially a reorganized Pike County farmer from July 1982, the news from the Scott County Farm Bureau and since October 2006, the Farm Post, a dual publication for the counties.
“Farm Bureau has been very, very good to me,” Roderick said. “I just hope I was very, very good.”