CHIPLEY – A former Washington County Farm Bureau director was memorialized at the organization's annual meeting Thursday.

Washington County Farm Bureau (WCFB) dedicated its conference room in honor of the late Charles Sloan, who served as a board member for more than 20 years. Sloan passed away June 29 at the age of 81.

WCFB presented a plaque to mount in the newly named Charles Sloan Conference Room.

"He was a people person," said Bonnie Sloan, Charles Sloan's wife of more than 60 years.

"He loved people, and he loved Farm Bureau."

Sloan's love for Farm Bureau is illustrated in part by actions he took following a fire that destroyed the Washington County Farm Bureau building several years ago. Sloan financially assisted the refurbishment of a section of the building at a nominal interest rate, recalled WCFB president Bruce Christmas.

“This eliminated a lot of hoops to jump through and expenses that would be required for the project,” Christmas said. “Since 2001, it has been a great addition for utilization,” he said. “Until recently, two or more of the offices have been occupied by outside renters. Our expenses have been returned by several fold.”

Those who do not remember Sloan through his service to Farm Bureau may remember the long-time Washington County farmer for his friendly disposition and produce sales, especially watermelons, from the back of his pick-up truck.

"He sold everything from his truck, never did have a permanent location," Bonnie said. "When he sold everything, he would just pack up and come home. People seemed to enjoy patronizing him."

In addition to his work in agriculture, Sloan served on the Board of Trustees at New Life Fellowship Church in Chipley and was a retired civil engineer from the Florida Department of Transportation.

In other Farm Bureau business, Thursday night’s keynote speaker was humorist Wayne Ates of Jesup, Ga. He joked about agriculture, ugly women, and his many aerial escapades. However, as always, Ates gave the audience a dose of wisdom: “work productively, love unselfishly” – and laugh often.

“It’s a mistake for people to take themselves so seriously that they miss the fun in life,” Ates said. “Back off, laugh – it helps.”

For nearly an hour, Ates managed to draw laughter from everyone in the building, including Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), who is running for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.

She said organizations such as the Florida Farm Bureau (FFB) work closely with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, informing legislators about top priorities and concerns for the state’s agricultural industry.

“Farm Bureau does a really good job with their members coming to Tallahassee,” Grimsley said. “Their voice together, it is very important, otherwise the people that are elected don’t … always understand what Farm Bureau is about.”

“Agriculture is so large,” she said, listing different aspects of the industry from crops and live stock to educating legislators and charter limits.

And, as the largest non-profit in agriculture, Holmes County Farm Bureau President Jeremy Rolling said FFB helped him reach some of his goals since he joined 18 years ago.

“We try to have a voice in agriculture; we’re the largest non-profit agriculture voice in the state,” he said. “It helps us reach people we couldn’t reach otherwise.”

WCFB is the local chapter of Farm Bureau Federation, an agency that represents and protects the interests of rural areas, through securing the ear of government officials, supporting agricultural research and education and its membership program. WCFB Board of Directors, 1361 Jackson Ave., meets 5:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month.

The organization boasts about 2,900 family memberships across Holmes and Washington County.