Skip Navigation Links
  Skip Navigation Links  

Annual Meeting 2019


Engagement is the foundation of the business Co-op’s farmer members own. It means to be involved. To care. To commit. To pledge support in making the Co-op system viable for years to come. With these things in mind, “Engage” proved to be a fitting theme for the 2019 Tennessee Farmers Cooperative annual meeting.

The two-day event was held on Sunday, Dec. 1 and Monday, Dec. 2 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. More than 650 directors, managers, employees, spouses, and special guests from the Volunteer State and beyond were in attendance.

It was another solid year financially for the Co-op, but both TFC Chief Executive Officer Bart Krisle and Board Chairman Mark Thompson stressed that with the changing dynamics of agriculture, there’s no time for complacency. Going forward, the Co-op must “Engage” opportunities to grow and diversify to remain relevant. It’s a formula that has kept the cooperative going strong as it turns 75 years old in 2020, and during his annual meeting address Krisle encouraged the audience to “continue to engage with your Co-op business as we lay the foundation for the next 75 years.”

Engage opportunities, Thompson says

From the Chairman of the Board

Playing on the 2019 annual meeting theme of “Engage,” TFC Board Chairman Mark Thompson began his remarks with an example of the importance of engagement taken straight from the most famous American Civil War battle, Gettysburg.

“Had General Robert E. Lee engaged more with his commanders and been willing to listen to their input, the Confederates could have won Gettysburg, possibly in as little as one day,” Thompson explained. “But he didn’t, and his troops paid a huge price. There were more than 25,000 Confederate casualties at Gettysburg — more than a third of Lee’s army.”

Correlating the Civil War story to the

Co-op system, Thompson stressed that engagement — with one another and with other cooperatives — is crucial to the long-term health of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative.

He shared how TFC is already taking steps in that direction with the recent alignment of the Hardware, Home, Lawn and Specialty, and Tires, Batteries, and Accessories departments into Faithway Alliance, a 50/50 joint venture with Alabama Farmers Cooperative and Faithway Feeds.

“Faithway Alliance allows everyone involved to benefit from greater purchasing volume, increased inventory efficiency, and stronger vendor relationships that will reduce costs and improve product selection,” he said. “The result is a competitive pricing model and continued income back to the member cooperatives.”

This example of growth, Thompson said, is one component of a four-pronged strategy developed earlier in 2019 by TFC’s board and management to “pinpoint what we can do to engage opportunities that will even further strengthen your cooperative going forward.”

The four strategies are:

(1)    Support Member Cooperatives

(2)    Growth

(3)    Staff Recruitment and Development

(4)    Financial Performance

To gain clarity that this strategy was headed in the right direction, TFC’s board and management engaged with member and associate member Co-op managers via a short survey to gain their feedback. The answers to the four-question survey, Thompson said, confirmed the strategy was indeed on the proper path:

(1) Should TFC be pursuing joint  ventures? 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

(2) Should TFC look for new services or new markets? 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

(3) Should TFC be looking for business outside Tennessee? 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

(4) Should TFC offer and create a means for member Co-ops to have full online sales capabilities? 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

“If there’s an opportunity out there, don’t wait to see if it works for everybody else first,” said Thompson. “If we do that, everybody else will grab the business. Let’s embrace the exciting times ahead. Let’s share ideas together. Let’s engage to excel.”

Another year of big-hearted bids

All proceeds go to benefit local

Friendly competition and generous hearts led to a third year of big-hearted bidding for the “Co-op Auction Barn.” Monies raised through the live and silent auctions totaled $17,215, funds that will benefit Tennessee’s FFA and 4-H programs. This year’s live auction featured two custom pieces: a framed, limited-edition TFC 75th anniversary print and a one-of-a-kind TFC 2019 Annual Meeting knife from Case. Unique items in the silent auction included tickets to the Vols bowl game, a Predators fan bundle with an autographed hockey stick and jersey, and a weekend getaway at Dollywood Dream Resort. Some of the most popular items included a DJI Mavic Quadcopter, UT men’s and women’s basketball tickets, a set of Mastercraft tires, Sony wireless earbuds, and themed baskets from


Transitioning to meet a new reality

Krisle explains strategic plan to membership

From the CEO

In his address to membership at the 2019 Tennessee Farmers Cooperative annual meeting, TFC Chief Executive Officer Bart Krisle emphasized that the Co-op is in a strong position financially with impressive sales volumes from the last several years, a solid balance sheet, and stable working capital, making now a good time to pursue the strategy laid out in TFC Board Chairman Mark Thompson’s preceding speech.

“We want to adjust so that we continue to stay relevant to our members and our farmer members,” he said. “The industry is changing and the pace of that change continues to increase.”

As examples, Krisle cited trends in agriculture that are reshaping the marketplace. Farmer demographics are changing. Their average age is now around 60 years old, and many are getting out of the business. There are fewer farmers, and remaining operations are getting larger. Consolidations like the high-profile Bayer-Monsanto merger and the Dow-DuPont agreement that produced Corteva are expected to continue, and experts expect them to spread to ag retailers as well.

He cited Sevier and Cocke Farmers

Co-ops combining to form Smoky Mountain Farmers and the merger of Overton and Putnam Farmers to create Ag1 Farmers

Co-op as examples of that trend.

“TFC is facing the same situation,” said Krisle, noting that the strategy developed by the board and management is an effort to “transition to meet this new reality head on.”

“We’re still going to be Tennessee Farmers Co-op. We’re still going to provide services that the members expect and need. We’re going to pursue alliances for our operating divisions that ensure we’re competitive on prices in the future through scaling into a larger organization.”

Those strategic alliances are yet to be determined, though Krisle said he expects them to take the form of joint ventures. Most recent is the Faithway Alliance business announced in 2019 that will be equally owned by TFC and Alabama Farmers

Cooperative.  The venture will allow TFC and AFC to grow market territory, increase the customer base, and gain operational efficiencies by collaboratively working together to reduce risk.

The concept is not new to TFC, and Krisle mentioned several examples of strategic alliances that the cooperative system has initiated and benefited from, including:

• ADI, a wholly owned subsidiary that provides bulk and bagged crop    nutrients across the Southeast.

• Alliance Animal Care, a wholesale animal health distribution company         equally owned by TFC and MFA Incorporated.

• Allied Seed, LLC, a provider of quality forages, legumes, cover crops,         and turf grasses, equally owned by TFC, Southern States, and Growmark.

• Mid States Ag, a joint venture equally owned with Waterway Ag that distributes fertilizer in Kentucky.

• GreenPoint Ag, a joint venture providing ag inputs, with equal governance by WinField United and TFC.

“These are all strategic alignments we made to our business over the years to better serve a changing marketplace, enhance operational efficiencies, and improve profitability for our Co-op system,” said Krisle.

He concluded by cautioning that “not every company is willing to embrace change like our cooperative system has done,” citing Kodak as an example. The well known and respected company was the market leader in film and cameras when it developed the first digital camera back in 1975. Kodak leadership, however, was focused on the traditional film business and felt the new technology would cannibalize their traditional film business and negatively impact profitability, so they sold the digital camera technology.

“I think we’re facing a similar crossroads in our part of the agriculture industry, and we should not, and quite frankly must not, allow ourselves to become complacent,” said Krisle. “We have invested a lot of time this past year developing the strategy that Mark [Thompson] outlined earlier, and we’re going to aggressively pursue it.”   

Your operations REPORT

From the COO

What is driving us to success?

What are some of the ag retail trends for 2020?

• Growing in-store and online competition for market share

• New rules and regulations for truck drivers and increase in demand for trucks

• Tariff uncertainty and effect on product costs

• Strategic management decisions as farm incomes projected to decrease up to 20 percent

• Continuing uncertainty in dairy industry

• Tennessee’s beef cattle projected to increase by 1.5 percent this year

What are some growth opportunities for Co-op

in 2020?


• Turf business — new department in Agronomy Division devoted to expanding turf sales

• Cover crops — increasingly important with higher yields of last few years to help replace nutrients

• AgSolver technology – new program from WinField United that identifies areas of a field that are the most profitable and those that present problems

• Grazon applications – with two million acres of pasture in Tennessee, there’s an opportunity to reach new customers with weed control products and applications

• Continued partnership with WinField United

Feed, Farm, Home, and Fleet

• New TN Ag Enhancement Program (TAEP) hay equipment program — New TFC-manufactured 10-foot poly bunk feeder is now included as option; expect greater demand for bale wrap, and TFC offers full line of options and  member Co-ops benefit from system’s buying power with twine

• New TAEP herd health program — Planned roll out with veterinarians statewide of script drug business through a partnership with Alliance Animal Care.

• Toll milling manufacturing — With all TFC feed mills meeting government compliance, opportunity for new ventures like TFC’s two-year agreement with Mossy Oak to manufacture a full line of wildlife products stocked in Walmart’s 2,600 stores

• Feed Department — New promotion where prizes are found inside bags of Co-op Cattle Mineral

• Continued partnership with Orgill

• Hardware Department— Arrowquip brands adds to Co-op’s full portfolio of livestock equipment and our continued partnership with Orgill

• Fuel Department — Opportunity for growth as supply and prices are expected to remain steady this year

• TBA sales — New line of lubricants from LuMax; new supplier EDS truck boxes; promotion of partnerships with S&S Tires and East Penn Manufacturing, which produces full line of Co-op-branded batteries

• Apparel and footwear – New brands including Twisted X and Dryshod boots

• Pet merchandise — With 88,000 tons of dog food consumed each year in Tennessee, TFC and member Co-ops have opportunity for growth in pet food and products


• 2019 Consolidated Gross Sales were $705 million, an increase of $44 million over last year.

• Net Margin for the year was $26.5 million.

• $21 million was paid in patronage, $15.8 million in cash, $5.3 million in allocated reserves.

By the numbers:

•    The consolidated gross sales amount of $705 million includes over $244  million or 35% in fertilizer sales, $97 million or 14% in animal nutrition      sales, $93 million or 13% in crop protection sales, $92 million or 13% in seed sales, $86 million or 12% in fuel sales, $40 million or 6% in hardware sales, $30 million or 4% in home, lawn, and specialties sales, and $14 million or 2% in tires, batteries, and accessory sales.

• In 2019, 717,000 tons of fertilizer were sold.  This is an increase compared to 2018 of nearly 67,000 tons.

• 2019 Feed tons sold were 250,000, a decrease of 12,000 tons.

• 2019 Fuel gallons sold was 37 million. Fuel gallons have remained fairly constant and it is important to note that around 70% of the fuel gallons sold is diesel fuel.

• Over the past 10 years, TFC has returned over $149 million in cash to member cooperatives, $4.7 million in member programs, $110.3 million in cash patronage, and $34.7 million in redeemed allocated reserves. That is an average of almost $15.0 million per year.  In 2019, TFC paid $21 million in patronage, $15.8 million or 75% in cash as well as retiring $5.3 million in allocated reserves. 

Your commitment as owners and customers makes this possible and we thank you for it!

UT great addresses annual meeting group

Student-athlete. Coach. Administrator. Phillip Fulmer has worn all these hats during his 50-year affiliation with the University of Tennessee.

Now the school’s Director of Athletics, Fulmer, a Winchester native who played football for the Vols from 1969-73 before coaching them to a national championship in 1998, felt right at home as he addressed TFC annual meeting attendees who hung on his every word.

Miles mesmerizes members

In a little more than 30 minutes’ time, Frank Miles juggled the following:

• machetes

• apples while simultaneously eating them

• a bowling ball and ping pong ball as a brave volunteer laid directly beneath him

• police tasers

• flaming torches while riding a unicyle.

Crazy? Maybe. But done with a message behind it? Absolutely.

Miles’ performance in front of the TFC annual meeting audience blended his brave juggling acts with sharp comedic interludes for an unforgettable, fast-paced show full of laughs, “oohs,” and “ahs.” The clear takeaway for attendees — and, not coincidentally, the title of his presentation – was to “Laugh at Fear.”

“Fear is what you feel when you’re expecting that something bad will happen,” he told the crowd. “The expectation causes tension. But sometimes what’s waiting with the unknown is amazing. Your industry is filled with change — the future is bringing new challenges but it will bring solutions right along with it. So laugh at fear.”


Representatives from Co-op’s regional managers association and W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery present the $36,100 donation from the sale of Co-op’s 2019 commemorative knife to the state’s 4-H and FFA programs. In front, from left, are Savannah Jones, State 4-H All-Star Chief from Union County; Maury Ford, W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery; and Taylor Campbell, State FFA President from Washington County. Back row, from left, are Lewis Jones, Knox Farmers Co-op; Kenny Kingins, Henry Farmers Co-op; Scottie Sadler, Macon-Trousdale Farmers Co-op; and Brian Ladd, Marshall Farmers Co-op.

Keeping Up
Market watch
National ag news
Career OpportunitiesCareer opportunities
Catalogs & brochures
Get in touch
Education & more
Programs & projects
What's New?
This document copyright © 2020 by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. All rights reserved. Legal Notice