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Grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture

2017-2018 Tennessee FFA state officers travel on their annual statewide Goodwill Tour during National FFA Week
Story by Allison Parker; Photos by Glen Liford and Julie Walker 3/23/2018


Tennessee FFA state officers stopped at Tipton Farmers Cooperative in Covington on Feb. 19 as part of their annual statewide Goodwill Tour during National FFA Week. The 2017-18 state officers are, front row, from left: Ahmon Watkins, reporter, Oakland; Allie Jo Shankle, state vice president West, Paris; Elizabeth Arwood, sentinel, Daniel Boone; Mary Lane Minatra, state vice president Middle, Eagleville; Julia Knaggs, president, Station Camp; Erin Bacon, secretary, Jefferson County; Kenzie Bastian, state vice president East, David Crockett; and Will Gregory, treasurer, East Robertson.
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This year marks the 70th anniversary of National FFA Week, which was first celebrated in 1948. Each year, as part of the national celebration, Tennessee’s current state FFA officers embark on an educational and entertaining whirlwind Goodwill Tour of some of the state’s most interesting farms and agribusinesses. Tennessee Farmers Cooperative proudly served as the headline sponsor of the 2018 tour, held Feb. 19-23.

A long-standing FFA-Week tradition, this week provides the officers an opportunity to serve as FFA ambassadors in a way they have not before, as they demonstrate the positive and lasting effects from their activities and achievements. The officers visit FFA members from all areas of the state and share with them their FFA stories. At the same time, these future leaders learn more about the exciting agricultural career options available to those who have experience and ambition to go after them.

“The Tennessee Farmers Cooperative sponsorship of our Goodwill Tour has provided my team and I many insightful and educational opportunities in the agriculture industry,” says Elizabeth Arwood, 2017-2018 Tennessee FFA State Sentinel from the Daniel Boone FFA Chapter. “During this week, we have traveled the state advocating for FFA and becoming more aware of our state’s agriculture. Through the generous support of TFC, we have engaged with FFA members, businesses, supporters, and legislative members to make an impact on our industry and our lives.”

Co-op career possibilities were prominently showcased as the group made stops at TFC’s LaVergne headquarters, the Athens location of AgCentral Farmers Cooperative, and Tipton Farmers Cooperative’s Covington location.

While visiting Tipton Farmers on Monday, Feb. 19, the officers, as well as FFA members from Brighton, Covington, and Mumford High Schools, heard from General Manager Joey Caldwell, a former State FFA President, who shared the store’s mission statement, the rich history of the cooperative, and the career opportunities within the Co-op system.

The FFA officers, along with McMinn County FFA members, visited AgCentral Farmers Co-op on Tuesday, Feb. 20. During their stop, they briefly toured the Athens store, enjoyed refreshments, and heard from speakers including AgCentral Chief Executive Officer John Walker and Jonathan Pierce, AgCentral chairman of the board of directors and career and technical education supervisor with the McMinn County School System.

Walker welcomed the guests and shared the history and background AgCentral has in the eastern part of the state. Pierce shared his experience as a state FFA officer and his 22 years of service as an FFA advisor and agriculture educator as well as the insight he’s gained over the years into FFA and what it will do for young people.

Similar sentiments were shared with the FFA group when they arrived at TFC’s LaVergne headquarters on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Paul Binkley, TFC director of education and training, provided an overview of the cooperative system and TFC and then shared 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 great Co-op employees, he stressed.

The FFA officers also heard from Glen Liford, manager of TFC’s Communications and Marketing Department and editor of The Cooperator. Several of the officers expressed an interest in agricultural communications during a question-and-answer period after the presentation.

Following Liford was Joe Huffine, manager of TFC’S Livestock Division and member of the TN FFA and 4-H Foundation Boards, who shared the impact organizations like 4-H and FFA have had on his life.

“As a young person, I thought the winnings or awards that I took home were the important part of 4-H and FFA,” said Huffine. “But as I look back as an adult, I can see it was the experiences and the relationships that I made have ultimately benefited me the most. I hope you will see the benefits like I do as you reflect back on this week and your time as a state officer in the years ahead!”

During each of the stops, the state officers presented a small portion of their own FFA story. Each officer shared a unique story, memory, or person who inspired them to take the initiative to follow this year’s National FFA theme, “I can. We will.”

“At Tennessee Farmers and each local Co-op we visited, as a team we left with so much more new knowledge and even greater gratitude for our state association’s supporters,” says Julia Knaggs, 2017-2018 Tennessee FFA State President from Station Camp FFA. “So many of the values we believe in as FFA members like hard work, advocacy, and servant leadership were also apparent among the members and employees of TFC. With sponsors like Co-op, we are able to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture for years to come.”                 

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