Ag advocate: Edna Fund honored with Lewis County Farm Bureau award


Edna Fund, a former Lewis County commissioner representing Centralia, became the first seatholder on the county board to attend all the Lewis County Farm Bureau’s monthly meetings.

Today, two out of the three county commissioners aren’t just regular meeting attendees, but farm bureau members; Commissioners Lindsey Pollock is a veterinarian and cattle farmer, and Commissioner Scott Brummer grows and sells his own livestock feed. 

“My dad put me on a tractor at the end of my third grade year,” said Fund, whose parents emigrated from the Netherlands with the goal of owning farmland in America. 

Fund has been an associate member of the bureau for 14 years, and was elected to the Lewis County Commission about three years later. 

“I’m not aware of commissioners coming regularly like she did,” said Maureen Harkcom, president of the Lewis County Farm Bureau. “She started that.” 

For her decades as an advocate for agriculture on the community and county government levels, Fund, during the bureau’s annual meeting earlier this month, received the Tony Fries Award. An annual award (unless there are no worthy contestants, Harkcom said), the title celebrates the late husband of Michaelle Fries, a volunteer Red Cross disaster response coordinator from Winlock. Tony Fries was one of the first members of the Lewis County Farm Bureau and a property rights advocate, Fund and Harkcom told The Chronicle last week.

A tear forming as she looked toward the former county commissioner, Harkcom also said Fund works to represent Lewis County farmers’ interests as they relate to flooding. Fund serves on the Chehalis Basin Board, which is seeking long- and short-term solutions to major flooding and declining health of aquatic species in the Chehalis River Basin.

While naming Fund as the Tony Fries Award recipient at the bureau’s annual meeting, Harkcom said, “I was trying not to look at her because I didn’t want to tear up.”

The set-up of the farm bureau, as Harkcom described it, makes county-level representation especially important. There are national and statewide farm bureau chapters, which develop and lobby for agricultural policies, she said. But the bureau differs from some other chapter-style nonprofits that seek to influence government.

“It starts at the county level and goes up,” Harkcom said. “It’s not the American Farm Bureau telling the Washington Farm Bureau what to do and Washington telling Lewis County. It’s the exact opposite.”

This structure qualifies the bureau as a grassroots nonprofit. And, they don’t just root for grass. While there are grain co-operatives, dairy federations and other product-focused advocacy groups across the country, the farm bureau welcomes all kinds.

Locally, the farm bureau provides coats for FFA chapters and scholarships. The group also values opportunities to educate farmers and non-farmers and improve the physical, mental and social health and safety of agriculturalists, she said.

“Not a nice statistic: We are the second highest suicide rate occupation in the United States,” Harkcom said. “And there is a reason for that. So, that networking, that social opportunity, is an important part of it.” 

Earlier this year, Harkcom organized a tour of Lewis County farms, which welcomes several local and state legislators along with U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal.

“Legislators were there,” Fund said. “They’re paying attention. They’re coming, which I think is great. So they know the issues and they can represent us well.”