Looking backward, I can see a little table, two cane-bottom chairs, and a secondhand typewriter in one corner of the county agent’s office in the basement of the courthouse in Columbia. A little sign on the table read ‘The Tennessee Farm Bureau’. It was a good thing the sign was there, else we might have been overlooked.
Joe Frank Porter
First President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation
Maury County native and the first president of Tennessee Farm Bureau, Joe Frank Porter, wrote that paragraph. The Williamsport farmer was reminiscing about the humble beginnings of the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau in the 25th annual report of the organization in 1946. The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation had its start because of farmers like Joe Frank Porter, wanting something better for the farming communities across our state.
Over its many years of existence, the Tennessee Farm Bureau has provided many services for the membership of the organization. It began as an organization lobbying for the betterment of its members. Much of the legislation we have today is because of the Farm Bureau and its early efforts. The organization continues to work with agricultural legislation and has full-time lobbyists working in Nashville. The public policy department works daily providing help for members in areas such as private property rights, taxation, regulations and other legislative issues facing the membership.
The organization also provides tax services for its membership, recording keeping, property protection reward programs, youth programs, women’s activities and many other farm related activities. As of 2020, the number of Tennessee Farm Bureau and affiliate service companies’ employees has risen from just one (Mr. Porter) in the early 1920s to more than 1300. 750+ employees currently work at the TFBF home office in Columbia and across the state there are more than 500 full-time insurance agents and 84 income tax practitioners located across the state that work out of more than 200 Farm Bureau offices.
Needless to say, Tennessee Farm Bureau has changed drastically the past 100 years, but along the way, the organization’s core values, role in the agriculture industry, grassroots structure and driving purpose has remained the same. Why? Because agriculture and rural Tennessee needed a voice in 1921 and both still need a voice today. We look forward to serving as that voice for many, many years to come.