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Tennessee Farmers Cooperative history and structure


At the conclusion of World War II, Tennesseans began to show an intense interest in forming their own farm supply business to ensure a dependable source of products needed in their farming operations. After careful study of farm supply cooperatives in other states, a special committee appointed by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, under the leadership of Al Jerdan, University of Tennessee marketing specialist, recommended that a federated cooperative system be established in Tennessee. TFC received its charter of incorporation from the state on Sept. 27, 1945, with 33 member Co-ops. TFC headquarters were originally established in Columbia. They were later moved to Nashville and eventually to LaVergne, where they are still located.

Today, Co-op in Tennessee includes TFC and 54 member cooperatives. Each of TFC's member Co-ops is a separate, independent cooperative business owned and controlled by farmer members in their home counties. Some 164 Co-op retail outlets, which operate in 83 of Tennessee's 95 counties, serve more than half a million customers across the state. Five member Co-ops also have branch retail stores in neighboring states of Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi. TFC also has eight associate members - one in Mississippi, three in Arkansas, one in Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one in Tennessee.

TFC is a federated cooperative system, which means there is a pyramid of ownership. The farmer members own their local Co-ops; those local Co-ops, in turn, own TFC. This gives the farmer true ownership of his or her own farm supply and service organization. Any savings above the cost of doing business are returned to the members on a patronage basis. Because savings are distributed locally, the money remains in the area where the Co-op is located. Of course, you don't have to be a member of the Co-op to shop there. Co-op offers quality products for everyone!

At the local level, the farmer members are responsible for electing a local board of directors, which establishes that particular Co-op's policies and employs the general manager. The daily operation of the business is under the direction and supervision of the general manager, who answers to the board of directors.

At the state level, the TFC system is divided into three zones, roughly reflecting the three grand divisions of the state - East, Middle, and West Tennessee. Three farmer-members from each zone are elected by member Co-ops to represent them on TFC's board of directors. With its headquarters in LaVergne and facilities in East and West Tennessee, TFC has a total of three distribution centers, three fertilizer plants, five feed mills, a metal fabrication plant, a farm equipment facility, and a maintenance shop. In addition, a seed conditioning and vegetable and lawn seed packaging facility are located at Halls in West Tennessee, and TFC operates barge terminals in Nashville and Ft. Loudon in East Tennessee.

Not only does a farmer's involvement with his Co-op extend beyond the boundaries of his farm and home county, but it indeed reaches well outside Tennessee. TFC is associated with other farmer cooperatives in joint ventures to explore, develop, produce, and procure certain products, conduct research, and promote the cooperative way of doing business.

Read More about Co-op's interregional connections.

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