Kansas Agri-Women lost a founding member and true visionary in January 2017. Jeanne Mertz was the woman behind the ‘Grocery Sack’ sign project. The Jeanne Mertz Memorial Fund has been designated to renovate the sign project, assisting the organization and its sponsors to put a new face on many signs across the state.
The sign project was conceived in the fall of 1977 when Harold and Jeanne drove to San Angelo, Texas to buy feeder lambs. Along the miles of highways they noted billboards advertising everything except the land they stood on. In Jeanne’s words, “Looking at these signs made me wonder why agriculture wasn’t advertising its commodities.” When they returned home, she contacted some of the United Farm Wives of America (UFWA) leaders and asked them if they thought UFWA could undertake a project promoting the farm commodities in our state. They took the idea to their board and away we went!
A grocery sack can be placed on most locations because it contains a variety of products. The law, which enables us to erect signs, defines “on premise” signs as a sign that promotes the activity on that particular piece of land. Therefore, such signs as appear on retail stores, professional offices, etc. denoting the business on that location are “on premise” signs. We are doing the same thing.
Our signs promote the business on that particular farm. A beef sign can be near a feedlot or on a farm or ranch with a cow-calf operation and a wheat sign will be near a field of wheat. The signs are placed on the landowners’ property — not on state owned land.
The first sign was installed by Memorial Day in 1978.
This project has had a strong and influential history, but it has not been without the support of two important partners: landowners and Thomas Sign Company.
Thomas Sign Company hand-painted the original signs in 1978, and have continued to do maintenance and replace signs as the organization was able to fund them. Thomas Sign Company has generously offered a reduced rate on sign replacement with the Jeanne Mertz Memorial Fund.
The landowners are key to success of the sign project. Their willingness to host a sign on private property, representing a great industry, is the where the ‘rubber meets the road’. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s participation over the last few decades.
The “Symbols of Agriculture” project has been a Kansas hallmark for decades, if you are able to support the sign renovation effort, please contact a committee member for more information.
The Kansas Agri-Women Sign Committee