The Cooperative Structure Today, Co-op in Tennessee includes TFC and 57 member cooperatives. At the very foundation of the highly successful cooperative system in Tennessee are the some 70,000 farmers who are member owners of the local Co-ops in their home counties. Of course, you don’t have to be a member of the Co-op to shop there. Co-op offers quality products for everyone!
The nearly 150 Co-op retail outlets, which operate in 83 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, serve more than half a million customers across the state. Four member Co-ops also have branch retail stores in neighboring states of Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Since ours is a federated cooperative system, there is a pyramid of ownership. The farmer members own their local Co-ops; those local Co-ops, in turn, own TFC. In conjunction with other regional cooperatives, TFC owns interregionals, which are cooperative businesses that focus on research, services, or manufacturing and distribution. This gives the farmer true ownership of his or her own farm supply and service organization.
At the conclusion of World War II, Tennesseans began to show an intense interest in forming their own farm supply business. Their dream was to have a dependable source for production inputs needed in their farming operations. They were visualizing a cooperative dream.
After careful study of farm supply cooperatives in other states, it was the recommendation of a special committee appointed by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, under the leadership of Al Jerdan, University of Tennessee marketing specialist, that a federated cooperative system be established in Tennessee.
Through the combined efforts of the 33 county associations already established and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, TFC received its charter of incorporation from the state on Sept. 27, 1945.
TFC headquarters were originally established in Columbia. They were later moved to Nashville and eventually to LaVergne, where they are still located.
Each of TFC’s member Co-ops is a separate, independent cooperative business controlled by farmer members. The farmer members, each of whom owns one share of voting stock, 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.
Another feature of the federated cooperative is that any savings above the cost of doing business are returned to the member patron on a patronage basis. Because savings are distributed locally, the money remains in the area where the Co-op is located.
The cooperative system in Tennessee 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.
Interregionals & Affiliates
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 and to conduct research. All of this interregional cooperation directly benefits the farmers of Tennessee.
Allied Seed, L.L.C. — Enhances TFC’s ability to provide quality forages and legumes to Tennessee farmers. TFC is an equal partner with two other regional farm supply cooperatives and an employee management group in the ownership of Allied Seed, which has processing facilities in Nampa, Idaho; Worland, Wyo.; and Albany, Ore. Allied processes and distributes turfgrasses, forages, and legumes to its members and other companies worldwide.
FFR Cooperative —Manages and coordinates extensive genetic research and testing in on-farm evaluations throughout the US where forage crops are used. Through its efforts, FFR shortens the time required to bring new varieties through field research and the laboratory to the farmers’ fields. Headquartered at West Lafayette, Ind., FFR also has a forage research location in Franklin, Tennessee, and other throughout the US. FFR is one of only a few companies that still do research in forage crops.
Cooperative Research Farms (CRF) — Conducts research on animal nutrition and practical feeding problems at member research facilities as well as through external contracts with various universities and private research facilities. Headquartered in Richmond, Va., CRF continues to be a world leader in feed research, with owners from U.S., Canada, and France. TFC has been a member for more than 40 years.
Pro-Pet, L.L.C. — Produces quality pet and companion animal foods from facilities in St. Marys, Ohio. Tennessee Co-ops offer Action Ration Complete, Big Red, Li’l Red, and Pro-Pet brands of pet foods manufactured by the company, owned by TFC and three other regional cooperatives.
Universal Cooperatives — Manufactures, processes, and purchases farm and home supplies such as automotive items, chemicals, twine, and animal health products. Owned by 20 regional agricultural cooperatives, Universal has central offices in Bloomington, Minn. TFC is also an active member of Universal Crop Protection Alliance (UCPA), a Universal subsidiary that procures and manufactures quality crop protection products.
CoBank — A cooperative banking institution that offers a broad range of flexible loan programs and specially tailored financial services to agricultural cooperatives, rural utility systems, and Farm Credit associations. CoBank, headquartered in Denver, Colo., also finances agricultural exports and provides international banking services for the benefit of U.S. farmer-owned co-ops and American agriculture.
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) — A nationwide association of cooperative businesses owned and controlled by farmers. NCFC is the voice of its members in legislative matters on the national level and serves as a clearinghouse in the collection and exchange of educational material.
Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC) — Promotes and advances cooperatives in the state. The council’s membership structure is grouped into five categories: dairy cooperatives, farm credit organizations, farm supply cooperatives, rural electric cooperatives, and others, including tobacco warehouses, artificial breeders’ associations, rural telephone cooperatives, livestock associations, marketing organizations, and the Farm Bureau.
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