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Tennessee Farm Bureau celebrates 100 years

Organization instrumental in developing Co-op reaches historic milestone
Story by Allison Farley Photos provided by Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation 5/26/2021

Story by Allison Farley


Photos provided by Tennessee

Farm Bureau Federation 





F


or 100 years, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation (TFBF) leaders have provided a better way of life for rural Tennesseans by helping to develop and advocate for policy on behalf of farmers and all Tennesseans. 


This rich history began on July 30, 1921, when the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation was officially created in the auditorium of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce building. There were 20 county “Councils of Agriculture” at the organization’s beginning, and those were transferred to county Farm Bureau organizations where dues to join were only $10.


Today, TFBF stands strong as the largest Farm Bureau in the nation, serving more than 680,000 members. But the purpose of being the voice of agriculture has remained the same. TFBF President Jeff Aiken says that is all thanks to the ones who came before. 


“Our organization has been blessed since the beginning with leaders who have incredible foresight,” said Aiken, a Washington Farmers Co-op member. “Thanks to these instrumental leaders, many of the problems our industry faced throughout the years were solved with programs and service companies all aimed at bettering the lives of farmers and rural Tennesseans. We’re proud these programs and service companies all remain relevant today and look forward to their impact for many years to come.”


TFBF headquarters is located not far from its original roots. The office of the first TFBF president, Joe Frank Porter, was established in the Maury County courthouse. President Porter was a Maury County native and farmer from Williamsport and saw Columbia, Tenn., as the perfect home for TFBF. The original space consisted of a simple desk and a chair and was where the foundation of TFBF was laid. 


The organization has always been committed to helping solve issues that farmers are facing and found solutions in Farm Bureau service companies – one of which turned into Tennessee Farmers Co-op (TFC). In April 1944, the TFBF board of directors appointed a committee to make a nationwide study of cooperatives, which was the first step in the establishment of TFC to help provide farmers the supplies they needed in their communities.


In addition to TFC, Farm Bureau created the Young Farmers & Homemakers organization — known today as the Tennessee Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R)— in 1944. YF&R’s purpose is to help provide a transition from participation in youth organizations like 4-H and FFA to engagement in local Farm Bureau organizations. 


In 1947, TFBF founded Tennessee Rural Health. The organization was created to address the need for access to adequate health insurance for rural Tennesseans, promote health and safety awareness, and make health coverage available to its members. The program later became known as Farm Bureau Health Plans and is the largest private health coverage group in Tennessee, providing affordable, quality health care coverage with a wide range of health care plans.


The following year, Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company was founded to provide other affordable insurance for rural Tennessee. At a rate of 35 automobile applications a day, 97 agents across the state provided the company with the beginning of its successful car insurance business. 


In 1972, TFBF recognized Tennessee cattlemen’s need for marketing assistance with their animals and worked to help provide producers with a place to sell their livestock. Tennessee Livestock Producers (TLP) became a fully owned affiliate of TFBF. In 2020, United Producers assumed business activities of Tennessee Livestock Producers. Today, United Producers has locations across the country and has grown to be the largest livestock marketing cooperative in the United States, handling approximately 3 million head of livestock annually. 


Throughout the years, TFBF has been a prominent supporter of the farming community, focusing largely on the area of agricultural education. The organization is a staunch supporter of both 4-H and FFA and has developed its own projects devoted to ag education. The Ag in the Classroom program works to deliver resources for teachers related to agricultural education, including lesson plans, summer workshops, garden grant applications, and more. 


In addition to advocacy and education, the Public Policy Division voices the concerns of the farming community to lawmakers at the state and national levels while serving as advocates for agriculture. 


“We are proud to work in advocating for policy for our farmers,” says Aiken. “But we know that the best legislative influence comes from informed, concerned farm families communicating their beliefs to their elected representatives.”


Throughout TFBF’s history, the organization has been known as a reliable source for all current news and issues related to agriculture and rural Tennessee through various methods and platforms. TFBF serves as the literal “voice of Tennessee agriculture” through Tennessee Home & Farm Radio, Tennessee Farm Bureau News, Tennessee Home & Farm magazine, and, more recently, social media

(@TNFarmBureau).


“Our organization was created in 1921 because agriculture and rural Tennessee needed a voice, and as the farm population continues to decrease and more folks are removed from the farm, it’s safe to say agriculture and rural Tennessee still need a voice today,” says Aiken. “We’re incredibly proud to serve as that voice and ensure the story of agriculture is told in Nashville, Washington, D.C., and beyond.”


TFC’s CEO Shannon Huff says that surpassing the 100-year mark has “shined a light on the great work that Tennessee Farm Bureau has done and will continue to do through the dedication it has to protecting and promoting agriculture.”


“As its sister organization, Co-op couldn’t be prouder of our friends and colleagues at TFBF and more grateful for all that organization does for our farmer members,” says Huff. “I’m sure that Farm Bureau and Co-op will continue working together with great effectiveness in the future just as we have over the past many decades.”


Aiken says that while the organization is proud of its many far-reaching accomplishments, he considers the centennial as “only the beginning.”


“We also can’t help being excited for what the next 100 and beyond have in store for Tennessee Farm Bureau,” says Aiken. “Our youth in 4-H and FFA and our YF&R leaders — not to mention the more than 680,000 proud Farm Bureau members — all provide me with great hope for the future of our organization and even more so, our most important industry – agriculture.”


 
 
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