Farmland Industries, Inc., records

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk P2004.12

Level of description



Farmland Industries, Inc., records


  • 1878, 1912-2004 (Creation)


379.50 Linear Feet, 208.00 Boxes

Post-Fire Oversize Boxes:
Box 163, 164, 166 (21x31); 509S: 19/1/5
Box 162 (19x25x1.5); 509S: 19/1/5
Box 160,161 (19x25x1.5); 509S: 19/2/4
Box 159 (19x25x1.5); 509S: 19/2/5
Box 165, 165A (16.5x20.5); 509S: 19/13/3
Box; 509: 20/27/4
Box 158; 509: 20/23/3

Name of creator

(1878, 1912-2004)

Administrative history

On January 27, 1928, Howard A. Cowden formed Cowden Oil Company in Columbia, Missouri.  During this year, Cowden saw a worth-while cause in the growing cooperative movement.  In late 1928, he moved the offices of Cowden Oil Company to Kansas City and made plans to establish a regional wholesale cooperative.  On January 5, 1929, Cowden Oil Company dissolved and its assets were transferred to a new corporation named Union Oil Company on February 16, 1929.  In 1931, the trade name "CO-OP" was used and in 1932 the first CO-OP tires, tubes, and batteries were produced. The first issue of the Cooperative Consumer newspaper appeared on December 10, 1933.  It provided a regular tie between the company and its patrons.
In 1935, the Union Oil Company changed its name to Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA).  At this time it served 259 local cooperatives and had $2 million in annual revenues. The growing company needed to expand its physical facilities so it purchased the property at 1500 Iron Street in Kansas City.  It was during this same year that the first Co-Op grease was produced.  The company continued to grow adding products such as paint, groceries, Co-Op tractors in 1936, Co-Op appliances, and a Consumers Insurance Agency in 1937.
A Cooperative Refinery Association was established in 1938.  In 1940,  the first CRA refinery was opened at Phillipsburg, Kansas and the first Co-Op oil well was launched at Layton, Kansas.  Additional refineries were opened at Scottsbluff, Nebraska (1941) and Coffeyville, Kansas (1944).
As the company grew it formed new divisions such as the National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA) and Cooperative Finance Association (CFA) in 1943, and Cooperative Farm Chemicals Association (CFCA) in 1951.  It also established feed mills, soybean plants, fertilizer plants, ammonium phosphate plants, meat packing plants, steel product plants, gas products plants, a pork plant, a battery plant, a nitrogen plant, phosphoric acid plants, and wheat products plants throughout the central plains.
The company moved headquarters to 10th & Oak, Kansas City (1944) then moved to 3315 N. Oak Trafficway (1956). In 1960, Howard A. Cowden saw the company's first $1 million sales day.  The next year, in 1961, he retired and Homer Young was named the president of the company.  In 1966, the company changed its name to Farmland Industries, Inc.  Under Young's tenure, the company expanded its headquarters building, was instrumental in the establishment of the North Kansas City industrial complex, launching of a phosphate plant in Bartow, Florida, and exceeded $300 million in sales.
Ernest Lindsey was named company president in 1967.  During his reign, the company acquired several companies such as Farmers Life Insurance Company, Des Moines, Iowa (1967), Southern Farm Supply Association, Amarillo, Texas (1968), Woodbury Chemical Company, St. Joseph, Missouri (1969).  Farmland merged with companies such as Minnesota Farm Bureau Service Company and Producers Packing Company, Garden City, Kansas in 1968 and with Far-Mar-Co, the United States largest grain co-op in 1977.
John Anderson was named the president of Farmland in 1978.  During his time the company celebrated its 50th Anniversary (1979), produced the television series "American Trail," organized Farmland World Trade Company with an export elevator located at Galveston, Texas, introduced the Co-op computer-based farm accounting system, and saw the first negative earnings for the company.
In 1983, Kenneth Nielson became president and three years later the company experienced a major loss in earnings even though it sold Terra Resources (1983), a gas plant in Lamont, Oklahoma (1984), the grain business (1985), and the steel products business (1985).
James Rainey became president in 1986 and made major expense reduction and organizational restructuring. Rainey eliminated nine divisional sales offices, and the Equipment and Supplies Division.  He sold the pork plant in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and the Texas gas plants.  He introduced the Master Commitment Agreement (1989), acquired a meat facility in San Leandro, California (1989), established a base capital plan, formed broadcast partners, and introduced the Farmland logo (1990).
In 1991, Harry D. Cleberg was named the president of Farmland.  He sold the battery and paint plants and the export elevator at Houston, Texas, and closed the Phillipsburg Refinery.  Several companies were acquired in 1993 such as Tradigrain, National Beef, Supreme Feeders, and National Carriers.  The first international office was opened in Mexico City (1993), the construction of an ammonia plant took place in Trinidad (1996), and a Farmland National Beef office opened in Tokyo (1998).  Several Limited Liabilities Companies (LLC) were formed under Cleberg's tenure such as Livestock Services of Indiana, LLC (1996), Triton Tire & Battery, LLC (1997), Agriland Technologies, LLC (1998), Agrifarm Industries, LLC (1998), Triumph Pork Group, LLC (1999), and Rocky Mountain Milling, LLC (1999).
Bob Honse became the president of Farmland Industries in 2000.  In 2001, Farmland ranked #170 on the Fortune 500 company list.  Its annual revenues were in excess of $11.8 billion.  In 2002, the company had 16,000 employees and faced a liquidity crisis resulting from fluctuations in commodity prices and increased operational and capital costs as well as the tightening of credit terms from suppliers and increased demands from its stockholders.  The company filed for Chapter 11 in May 2002.  Farmland Foods, Inc., organized in 1970, produces, sells, and exports pork products in the United States and Internationally.  In 2002,  the pork processing division was sold to Smithfield Foods for $367 million, and in 2014, it was acquired by The Smithfield Packing Company.  Farmland National Beef Packing Company was sold to U.S. Premium Beef for $232 million.  The fertilizer production division was sold to Koch Industries and the company's refinery and coke-to-nitrogen fertilizer plant were sold to a hedge fund.
On June 28, 2006, JPMorgan Bankruptcy & Settlement Services reported that all unsecured creditors were paid $1.04 for every dollar.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection documents the history of Farmland Industries, Inc. from Howard A. Cowden's idea to establish Cowden Oil Company in 1928, through the dissolution of the company in 2004.
The Union Equity series is comprised of 14 boxes.  It includes Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, correspondence, export records, financial and audit records, meeting minutes, meeting agendas, speeches, publicity materials, printed material, audiovisual materials, and photographs.
Women's Cooperative Guild series is made up of five (5) boxes and one (1) box is shared with the Farmland Artifacts series. It includes annual reports, correspondence, financial records, member records, meeting minutes, newsletters, photographs, scrapbooks, yearbooks, and artifacts.
Contained in 126 boxes, the Farmland series is the largest in the collection.  It is made up of corporation records, correspondence, financial records, historical records, photographs, negatives, slides, printed material, and scrapbooks.  The corporation records include Corporation By-Laws, annual reports, annual meetings, conferences, minute books, Dreyer Award winners, Ampride Incorporation merger with Farmland, Farmland Food Services, Farmland World Trade Company, and Tier II Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reports at various locations.  Historical records follow the history of Farmland from Cowden Oil Company (1928) through name changes and the dissolution of the company (2004).  They also include the history of the changes of the Farmland logo.  There are photographs, negatives, and slides of board members, Dreyer Award winners, and employees and non-employees filed in alphabetical order.  A possible photograph of interest is of Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.  Other photographs, negatives, and slides include annual meetings (1944-2001), Coffeyville Petroleum Coke to Ammonia Project, Co-Op displays, Farmland food plants, Farmland Headquarters, Phillipsburg Refinery, Youth Camp, baseball players, football players, hockey players, barbed wire, barges, cattle, farm meetings, feed mills, feeding containers, fertilizer plants, food storage containers, glo-candles, grease plant, heaters, hogs, horses, landscapes, laundry detergent, livestock shows, paint plant, pipelines, print plant, propane plant, refineries, sheep, soy plants, storage tanks, trains, trucks, warehouses, and warehouse fires.  There is also a photo book of Consumers Cooperative Association.  Printed material consists of articles, brochures, catalogs, essays, magazines such as Leadership, training manuals, manuscripts, music, newsletters such as Farmland News and Inside Farmland, news releases, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, reports of fertilizer plants and pork processing plants, speeches and radio addresses by Howard A. Cowden, Homer Young, and others and educational and training materials.  There are five (5) scrapbooks in this series.  Photographs in the scrapbooks include an ammonium phosphate plant in Joplin, Missouri, Coffeyville Refinery, Farmland Headquarters, Lawrence Nitrogen Plant, Phillipsburg Refinery, annual meetings, Co-Op transportation vehicles, feed mills, and warehouses.
Cooperative Refinery Association (CRA) series is made up of one (1) box.  It includes information pertaining to the Coffeyville and Phillipsburg, Kansas refineries, CRA meeting minute books (1939-1981), and CRA of Peru, Inc.
Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA) series is comprised of three (3) boxes and one (1) partial box that is shared with CFCA series, Union Oil Company series, and Agricultural Hall of Fame series.  It includes the organization's Administrative Orders, Articles of Incorporation, correspondence, conferences, farm program and problems, history of the organization, lists of Board of Directors, minutes, policies, list of personnel, speeches by Howard A. Cowden, subsidiary reports, printed material, and information regarding the Howard A. Cowden Scholarship & Memorial Fund. The one (1) partial box consists of the history of the organization including photographs of laying of the cornerstone of the office building located at 3315 North Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, Missouri, the Neighbor Night Program, and audio cassette tapes.  The tapes include the 21st Annual Meeting (1949), Neighbor Night meetings (1951 and 1953), the 24th Annual Meeting (1952), the dedication of the nitrate plant (1952), and short recordings of Howard A. Cowden.
Cooperative Farm Chemical Association (CFCA) series is stored in one (1) box and one (1) partial box shared with the CCA series, Union Oil Company series, and Agricultural Hall of Fame series.  It includes Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws, annual stockholders meetings and minutes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, revolving fund certificates (1959-1985), and photographs and printed material of the dedication of the Lawrence Nitrogen Plant, Lawrence, Kansas (1951-1954).
Far-Mar-Co series is contained in two (2) boxes.  Included are correspondence to the Board of Directors (1976-1985), news releases, newspaper clippings, and the organization meeting of the incorporators of Far-Mar-Co/Farmland Acquisition Corporation (1976-1980).
Union Oil Company series is housed in one (1) box with CCA series, CFCA series, and Agricultural Hall of Fame series.  Included are the Certificate of Incorporation, Articles of Agreement, Affidavit of Dissolution of Cowden Oil Company, correspondence, minutes, magazines and newspaper publicity and advertising, radio talks, and speeches, and three (3) scrapbooks with photographs.
The Agricultural Hall of Fame series is stored in one (1) box with CCA series, CFCA series, and Union Oil Company series.  It contains the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws (1958-1961), newspaper clippings (1980-1990), visitors guides (1960-1981), photographs, printed materials with titles such as "What's the Agricultural Hall of Fame Development Program All About?" and "How Farmers Can Take Part in Building the Agricultural Hall of Fame Through Their Local Cooperatives."
Stored in five (5) boxes and two (2) shared boxes and five (5) oversize items, the Farmland Artifacts series contains awards, a keychain that reads "Farmland, Proud to be Farmer Owned," a coffee cup that reads "Co-Op Quality Paint," a deck of playing cards that reads "Co-Op Feed Mill Dedication, Farmland Industries, Inc.," golf tees, paperweights, wooden gavel, a red and white apron that reads "Use Co-Op Products," and a color plate of Co-Op Red and Co-Op Blue.  The series also includes one (1) ceremonial shovel dated December 1, 1959, a Recognition Board that reads in part "In Recognition Members of the Original Consolidated Board of Directors of FAR-MAR-CO, Inc." with a list of board members dated June 1, 1968-March 1969, and a silver metal sign that reads "Consumers Cooperative Association" with a list of board of directors dated 1956.  It also includes a Bell & Howell Model 1550B 16mm film projector. Note one shared box is with the Women's Cooperative Guild series and the other shared box is with the Farmland Industries series.
Farmland Oversize series are stored in nine (9) boxes and two (2) map cabinet drawers.  Included are advertising posters, newspaper clippings, bound advertising pages, photographs, calendars, two (2) scrapbooks, Ken Burdette Sketches, a drawing of Farmland Foods Plant, banners, blueprints, and watercolor paintings.  The advertising posters include wheat, farm fuel, and John Denver's TV Special, Farmland Mission Statement, and Farmland Service Pledge.  The photographs include aerial photographs, photographs of Howard A. Cowden, barges, harvesting, CCA, National Ag Center, Phillipsburg Refinery, annual meetings (1937-1953), Farmland oil products, and crops.  The two (2) scrapbooks contain Co-Op Store Campaign Advertisements and information on presenting Farmland Industries.  There are three (3) Ken Burdette sketches.  One of Arthur Capper, one of Andrew Volstead and the third of is the mural that was inside the Farmland Headquarters reception area.  There are six (6) banners in this series.  One banner is painted on oilcloth and reads "Kansas Grassroots Says Stop Floods and Drouth The Watershed Way."  Another banner is painted on canvas and reads "Funds Flow Chart, Consumer Cooperative Association, 1947."  The other four (4) banners are vinyl and they promote the Phillipsburg Refinery, Farmland, Co-Op, and AG 21.  Included in the blueprints are those of Farmland Headquarters and complex and warehouse additions in Iowa and Colorado.  There are two (2) watercolor paintings.  One of Heartland Wheat Growers Wheat Starch and Gluten Production facility in Russell, Kansas, and the other of the Portland Head Lighthouse.
The Audio-Visual Materials series is stored in 36 boxes and there are loose items on five (5) shelves.  Included are 16mm films, CDs, cassette tapes, filmstrips, LPs, and VHS tapes.  The 16mm films include films on annual meetings, sales rallies and have titles such as "The is Far-Mar-Co," "Your Cooperative Federation," "Helping You Help Yourself," "You Are Not Alone," "Service From the Ground Up," "Farmland Trails," "Ham to Hot Dogs," and "Better Farming Better Food."  There is also a 16mm film of Howard Cowden speaking at a CFCA cornerstone ceremony in Lawrence, Kansas, and of Jim Henson's "Muppets Meeting Films" (1979).  The CDs contain a PowerPoint presentation of the Farmland Headquarters Visitor Center, photographs, annual meeting information, Bob Honse images, national beef images, annual reports, history of Farmland (1969-2000), and the Dreyer Awards.  Cassette tapes include the Bunny Farm Rabbit Feeding program, annual meetings, shareholders meetings, monthly dairy meetings, and youth leadership conferences.  The filmstrips include Neighborhood Councils, refinery news, and the cooperative centennial (1844-1944).  There are LPs of 78 RPM and 33 1/3 RPM in this series.  They include radio messages and addresses of Howard A. Cowden and Chuck Miller, Co-Op Neighbor Night Program, Battle Hymn of Cooperation Consumers Co-Operative Association Quartet, and annual meetings.  The largest section of audiovisual materials is the VHS tapes.  Tapes include special events, motivational tapes, annual meetings, employee meetings, Fieldmen's conferences, food safety, pesticides, Coffeyville Refinery tour, quarterly meetings, news broadcasts about Farmland, Coffeyville oil spill, training videos, sales rallies, speeches, and presentations of Harry D. Cleberg, Dreyer Awards, Farmland Industries Project Tomorrow, grain grading, shareholders meetings, Foods Media Shows, Heartland Wheat Growers, and restructuring Farmland.  VHS tapes that may be of interest are those of Senators Nancy Kassebaum and Robert "Bob" Dole.  Other VHS tapes include voice demos from individuals such as Sam Beck, Bob Benish, Jr., Carla Cooper, Kimball Cummings, Jack Elliott, T. Max Graham, Barbara Houston, Randy Kemp, Mark Mason, Don Miller, Jim Scott, and many others.
There are nineteen shelves of printed material that are bound volumes.  The bound volumes are <emph render='italic'>The Daily Scoop, Inside Farmland, Farmland Circles, Co-Op News Digest, Leadership, Bulletin, Teammates, The Cooperative Farmer,  Co-Op Reporter, The Cooperative Consumer, Insider, Managers Newsletter, Advantage, The Plant Connection, Farmland Supervisor, and Home-Maker.  Note The Cooperative Consumer name changed to Farmland in September 1966 and Farmland changed to Farmland News in 1971.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged at the box level and into 13 series: 1) Union Equity,1926-1993, undated; 2) Women's Cooperative Guild,1939-1989, undated; 3) Farmland Industries, 1878, 1916, 1925-2004, undated; 4) Cooperative Refinery Association (CRA), 1938-1981; 5) Consumers Cooperative Association (CCA), 1912-1977, undated; 6) Cooperative Farm Chemical Association (CFCA), 1951-1985; 7) Far-Mar-Co, 1970-1985, undated; 8) Union Oil Company, 1929-1975; 9) Agricultural Hall of Fame, 1958-1990, undated; 10) Farmland Artifacts, 1940-2001, undated; 11) Farmland, Oversize Items, 1930-1992, undated; 12) Audio Visual Materials, 1939-2002, undated; 13) Printed Material Bound Volumes, 1931-2000.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Original materials available during open hours of repository and any digitized materials that are online are available with Internet access.

Technical access

The collection contains audiovisual materials that are not accessible without proper technology.

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

It received accession number P2004.12.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Farmland Industries, Inc.
Acqusition Method: Donation.
Acqusition Date: 2004-07-30

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related Materials: John Minor Papers, Accession Number 2016-17.043 and Roderic Simpson Papers, Accession Number 2016-17.040

Related descriptions

General note

for example

Specialized notes

  • Citation: [Item title], [item date], Farmland Industries, Inc. Records, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

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Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Cynthia A. Harris
Processing Info: Cynthia A. Harris, Library Assistant III, processed the collection and it was reviewed by curator, Dave Allen.
Publication Date: 2018-02-28

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