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A legacy of growth and change

Bart Krisle leaves TFC financially strong with a plan in place for the future
By Glen Liford, Editor 4/23/2021


TFC Chief Executive Officer Bart Krisle announced that he will retire June 4 after a career spanning 38 years, including the last 14 as CEO.
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When I first heard that Bart Krisle was retiring as Tennessee Farmers Cooperative chief executive officer, I couldn’t really say I was surprised. It was another significant change for TFC during a tumultuous year, and if we’ve learned anything during the past 15 months, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Against the background of the pandemic, TFC was implementing a plan to pursue strategic alliances through the formation of joint venture (JV) companies. Two of those ventures are now active — Faithway Alliance and GreenPoint Ag. A third will be finalized soon.

Such significant change would pose a challenge for any company, but it could be overwhelming for one so steeped in tradition as Co-op. Bart recognized this potential pitfall and chose to clearly communicate the reasons behind the changes. He assured all those involved that the purpose of TFC remained intact:

to serve the member Co-ops and help them to be profitable.

Bart’s efforts during this past year included regular video addresses to the employees, keeping us all focused. He communicated openly and frequently throughout the process of forming the JVs. Whatever the format, his messages helped maintain employee morale throughout what could have been a difficult time. His approach squashed many unfounded rumors before they had a chance to develop.

Bart took over as CEO after Vernon Glover’s retirement in 2005. Since that time, sales have risen from $521.6 million in 2006 to $628.9 million in 2020. Peak sales occurred in 2012 with a record $814 million. Over the past 10 years, TFC has returned more than $169.5 million in cash to member cooperatives, $4.7 million in member programs, $126.7 million in cash patronage, and $38.2 million in redeemed allocated reserves. That’s an average of almost $17 million per year.

During a time when nationwide market forces were at work to make it more challenging for a regional co-op, TFC remained financially strong and relevant to its member owners.

Throughout the pandemic, JV transition, and indeed, his entire tenure, Bart has been a good communicator and a strong motivator. He has led by example. His personality has been a good fit with the family-style culture of TFC. He has been consistent and has set the tone for the culture of this cooperative.

Even his retirement has served as another example of Bart’s dedication to the Co-op system as his efforts in transitioning to a new CEO have made the process almost seamless. The board selected Shannon Huff as the one to follow Bart. Shannon’s experience and background — coupled with a deep understanding of the business and its ultimate purpose — made him a wise choice. He has been deeply involved in the implementation of the JV strategy and the development of the vision for the future. The senior team’s strategic plan is already in place, and the staff is ready to carry on.

Bart has left TFC in qualified, capable hands, and the business remains in solid financial shape with a clear plan for the future.

What better legacy could anyone ask for?

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