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Great expectations

State FFA officers get glimpse of possible Co-op careers
Story and photos by Glen Liford 3/23/2017


Tennessee’s FFA state officers visited TFC’s LaVergne headquarters Feb. 22 as one of the stops on their annual weeklong Goodwill Tour. From left are West Tennessee Vice President Sam Daniel, Covington; Reporter Taylor Curtis, McEwen; East Tennessee Vice President Ally Clark, Meigs County; Secretary Hannah Nave, Woodbury; President Mackenzie Clark, Scotts Hill; Sentinel Allison Parker, Station Camp; Treasurer Abby Gass, Blackman; and Middle Tennessee Vice President Aaron Walls, Cookeville.
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Each year during National FFA Week, current state FFA officers embark on an educational and entertaining whirlwind Goodwill Tour of some of Tennessee’s most interesting farms and agribusinesses. Co-op proudly served as the headline sponsor of the 2017 tour held Feb. 20-24.

The purpose of the FFA Goodwill tour is twofold. It, of course, gives these outgoing and personable young men and women an opportunity to serve as FFA ambassadors as they demonstrate the positive and lasting effects gleaned from their activities and achievements. At the same time, these future leaders get to preview the exciting agricultural career options available to those who have experience and ambition. 

“I am so appreciative of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative for sponsoring our tour,” said Woodbury’s Hannah Nave, state FFA secretary. “It is admirable that Co-op sees the importance of FFA and the next generation of agriculture and chooses to support us so generously. The Goodwill Tour is a long-standing tradition, and the opportunity to travel and spread the message of FFA have created memories I won’t soon forget.”

Co-op career possibilities were prominently showcased as the group made stops at TFC’s LaVergne headquarters and the Athens location of AgCentral Farmers Cooperative as part of their weeklong activities.

On Monday, Feb. 20, the FFA leaders visited AgCentral Farmers Cooperative’s modern, gleaming retail complex in Athens where they were welcomed by Jonathan Pierce, career and technical education supervisor with the McMinn County School System and a former director of the Co-op, and Josh Cornelius, assistant manager of the Athens location.

Jonathan is a former state officer who admitted he holds a soft spot for FFA after teaching high school agriculture and serving as FFA advisor for hundreds of McMinn County youth for 22 years before becoming an administrator. He also has valuable experience as a Co-op leader.

In his presentation, Josh shared details about the size and scope of the cooperative that serves farmers throughout the Sweetwater Valley. As he showed the FFA members through the showroom, warehouse, and car care center, he highlighted the myriad career opportunities at AgCentral and noted that the Co-op has a history of hiring FFA and 4-H members for positions throughout its organization. In fact, he stressed, three former state FFA officers currently serve in prominent roles at the cooperative.

Cindy Jenkins, one of those former officers, works in AgCentral’s accounts payable area. In eloquent remarks to the visiting group, she stressed the value of her FFA experiences — both personally and professionally — as she has settled into her career at AgCentral.

“I still carry the things I learned in ag class and the experiences I had outside of class [in FFA] with me today,” said Cindy. “Those are things you will not learn anywhere else.”

Those experiences, Cindy emphasized, help her and employees with similar backgrounds better serve the diverse customers of the Co-op.

“The AgCentral customer base is so broad,” she said. “All of our employees may not live on a farm, but that’s ok. We have a lot of street traffic [customers who aren’t farmers]. We provide services and products they need. And we have people who come from an ag background who rely on us for the knowledge we provide. We take pride in that. Our employees are placed according to what they know. Our customers come here because they know they can get an educated answer to their questions.”

Similar sentiments were shared with the FFA group when they arrived at TFC’s LaVergne headquarters two days later on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Paul Binkley, TFC director of education and training, provided details about the Co-op scholarship, internship, and management training programs for those seeking careers in agriculture. Candidates with backgrounds in organizations like FFA usually make good Co-op employees, he stressed.

“They tend to have an attitude of ‘servant leadership,’” he explained. “They want to help others and are focused on making the world of agriculture better. With farmers being less than 2 percent of the population, it is critical that we have informed folks spreading the message of why agriculture is important to the world.”

The FFA officers also heard from Keith Harrison, manager, and myself, as Tennessee Cooperator editor, representing TFC’s Communications and Marketing Department. Several of the youth expressed a keen interest in ag communications as a career, and they were given the opportunity to ask questions of those working in the field.

“I thoroughly enjoyed spending time at TFC,” said Ally Clark, East Tennessee state FFA vice president from Meigs County. “Being at a place like this reaffirms my choice of a career in agriculture. It is so encouraging to see all of the past FFA members at the Co-op who are willing to share their passion for agriculture with current members. “We are so thankful for our partnership with the Co-op and the dedication they put into informing and supporting our future agriculturalists.”

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