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Time has come for me to ‘really retire’

By Jerry Kirk Contributing Editor 3/23/2017


Jerry Kirk, Contributing Editor
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After nearly 45 years with Tennessee Farmers Cooperative — first as editor and then contributing editor of the Tennessee Cooperator ­­— I’ll retire for real March 30. My Co-op career has been a phenomenal ride, but it’s time for me to step aside.

Officially, I retired as editor of the Cooperator and manager of TFC’s Communications Department on April 30, 2001. But when Vernon Glover, CEO at the time, and my immediate supervisor, Charles Atkins, asked me to stay on as contributing editor, I jumped at the chance. During the nearly 16 years since, I’ve managed to come up with something for this column every month (actually, it’s my favorite thing to do!), written some other articles, and helped the talented staff get each issue of the Cooperator ready for the printer.

In all, I figure I’ve been involved with this publication for a little more than 77 percent of its existence. While that makes me especially proud, I treasure most the involvement I’ve had with the thousands of committed customers across TFC’s service area who rely on their local Co-ops for the quality products and services they must have to raise their crops and livestock, maintain their farms and homes, and sustain a way of life that generations of Tennesseans have enjoyed. It has also been my personal pleasure to work with hundreds of committed, knowledgeable personnel throughout our system who thrive on going the extra mile in serving Co-op customers.

Here’s part of what I wrote in my May 2009 column that ran in TFC’s commemorative 50th anniversary edition of the Cooperator: “Becoming editor of this publication was definitely a major turning point in my life. But what was most life-changing about my new

Co-op job was the fact that I was immediately accepted and embraced by a loving and caring business ‘family’ the likes of which I had never before experienced. Family is, after all, what Co-op in Tennessee is all about. From farmer members and their Co-ops on the local level to TFC on the regional or state level, the system thrives on working together, helping each other, and enjoying the rewards of cooperation. I had solid support and encouragement every step of the way.”

I echo those sentiments today.

From the time I reported for my first day of work on Monday morning, Nov. 6, 1972, here at TFC’s sprawling LaVergne complex, I’ve been right at home — a comfortable, satisfying feeling indeed. The midstate location of TFC headquarters was a real bonus from the start, considering that many of my earliest days involved traveling the state to do on-the-farm stories about farmers and their operations and covering a wide array of events. Whether I was headed to Mountain City in upper East Tennessee, Memphis on our state’s southwestern tip or any farm or town in between, I could usually make the trip, get information, and take pictures in a day. As someone who, from a young age, had a keen interest in our state, I enjoyed my work-related travels. 

On those jaunts of my earliest Co-op years, I built treasured friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Farmers and their families welcomed me to their homes, fed me some of the best homecooked meals I’ve ever tasted, taught me more about agriculture than I could have ever learned in a classroom, and showed, by example, how and why they depended on Co-op for quality supplies and service. It was such good training for me, and I’m grateful for the knowledgeable employees at local Co-ops and TFC for all the great help they gave me not only in those earliest days but indeed throughout my career.

I have no idea how many on-the-farm stories I did over the years, but I’m glad they’re still a prominent part of every issue of the Tennessee Cooperator. They continue to drive what we do in promoting the products and services Co-op offers to members and other customers. Glen Liford (East Tennessee), Chris Villines (Middle Tennessee), and Sarah Geyer (West Tennessee) do a tremendous job of chronicling the achievements of farmers in their assigned territories of the state.

When Glen was in Bradley County to interview Howard Moore and his wife, Polly, for the “Every Farmer Has A Story” feature that ran in the March 2017 issue, they showed him a black-and-white picture I snapped of Howard’s father, the late Henry Moore, when I visited the family’s dairy farm nearly four decades ago. I’m honored to include the photo, which ran in the October-November 1978 Cooperator, in this final from-the-heart message to a Co-op family that has treated me so well. Thank you for everything.

God bless ... and go Co-op!

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