Chapter Vision and Organization
Last update: 10-18-2021
The Vision for FVC-TN is to create a network of farmer veterans, resource personnel and supporting organizations that can help train and support veterans as they transition into farming and as they grow in their farming career. Our desire is to help veterans find the resources they need by sharing information online, supporting existing training venues and conducting our own training events throughout the year. We want to help connect individuals and groups of veterans and farmers so that they can work together on projects such as fence building, barn raising, installing irrigation, etc. The goal is to help each other build farm infrastructure while also building camaraderie and community.
To move us toward that vision, we have organized the chapter with a leadership team that includes officers and 4 Regional Coordinators. Each Regional Coordinator is to then recruit assistants and build up their regional network. The focus of the regional coordinators is on the needs of the individual farmer veterans within their area.
At the state level, the leadership consists of a Board, Chapter Officers and an Advisory Committee. Their focus is on maintaining a non-profit organization that can perform fundraising and hosting of larger scale events for groups of farmers. The Board provides oversight to the chapter and approves its officers and its budget. The chapter officers perform their assigned functions (see chapter by-laws) and the advisory committee consists of professionals within the larger agricultural community that can help the chapter identify and obtain needed resources
FVC-TN Chapter History
The roots of the Tennessee chapter began in the 2016-2017 time frame when the Eileen Legault and Tim Prather of the TN AgrAbility program began to notice the large number of veterans within the farmer population that they were working with.* Looking for ways to improve their service, they discovered the growing national Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). While attending the FVC National Stakeholders convention in 2017, Tim Prather met Charley Jordan, an Army Aviator and beginning farmer. After this convention, Charley, Tim and Eileen began working with other farmer veterans in the state to network, share resources and start forming a local chapter. They also helped connect TDA with the FVC’s Home Grown by Heroes program. Charley attended multiple events and meetings across the state, garnering support for fellow farmer veterans. He also began work on a memorandum of understanding with the national FVC to start the process of becoming an official state chapter. After meeting Charley at the Ag in the Foothills Field Day in October 2017, Ron Bridges volunteered to help with the chapter formation. Michael O’Gorman, the founder of FVC attended the Pick-TN conference in February 2018 where he spoke and encouraged the development of the TN Chapter.
In October 2018, Ron and Charley attended the FVC national stake holders conference in Kansas City and there they laid out the basic organization for the new chapter. Charley would serve as President and Ron would serve as Vice President. Michael Trost was one of the initial board members. Over the next year, Charley, Eileen, Ron and Tim continued to work to increase opportunities for Tennessee veterans to enter farming. They held farmer veteran sessions as the Pick-TN conference in February 2019, assisted with the New Farmer Academies run by extension agents Finis Stribling and Jenny Goodrich, and in April of 2019 the nascent chapter sponsored an Agritherapy/Horticultural Therapy workshop for veterans at BeeRidges Farm.
During this time, FVC national was in the process of re-organizing how it was creating state chapters and the TN group was not yet recognized as an official state chapter. In September of 2019, Charley chose to separate himself from the FVC chapter process. In October, Tim, Ron and several farmer veterans from Tennessee attended the FVC national stake holders conference in Austin, TX.
At that meeting, FVC presented their new process for creating state chapters. Coming out of that meeting, Ron Bridges, PZ Horton and Jameson Griffis along with Tim and Eileen and several others decided to push forward with creating a TN State Chapter. They formed a Chapter Organizing Committee, recruited a board of directors, and an advisory board and began finding their initial chapter officers. There were a number of people that helped with the chapter organizing including Richard Hanson, Lee Salzman, and Jim Artman. At the Pick-TN Conference in February 2020, this group presented their work to their fellow farmer veterans who voted to approve the slate of officers, directors and advisors. The COC then completed all of the needed paperwork and in May of 2020, FVC National officially recognized the TN state chapter. At that point the officers were: Ron Bridges (President), Jameson Griffis (Vice President), Amanda Lovingood (Secretary), Heather Fawver (Treasurer), and Lacresha McKinney (Communications Officer). The Regional Coordinators at this time were Chris Mehr (West TN), Jameson Griffis (Middle TN), and Jim Artman (East TN). PZ Horton and Lee Salzman were members of the Board of Directors, while Eileen Legault, Richard Hanson, Finis Stribling and Jenny Goodrich were members of the Advisory Committee.
After the official recognition, the chapter hosted a virtual celebration by way of Zoom and Facebook, but they were not able to host many events other due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shut-downs. Members attended the virtual FVC Stakeholders conference in November 2020 and held monthly zoom meetings to work on communications, finance and other chapter infrastructure. In January of 2021, the chapter conducted an online workshop on how to apply for an FVC Fellowship Grant. In May of 2021, they held an Anniversary celebration at the Lane Agri-Park in Murfreesboro, the first in-person meeting since the February 2020 Pick TN conference. At that meeting, the chapter chose to move from three regional coordinators to four and Richard Hanson volunteered to serve as the fourth Regional Coordinator (west-central TN).
After the May 2021 meeting, chapter leaders began work assisting FVC national with the planning of the Eastern Region Stakeholders Conference to be held in Knoxville in November 2021. During this time the chapter also worked on improving their infrastructure with the creation of a website and a membership directory and resource system. The chapter leadership changed somewhat as Jim Arman moved up to be the new Vice President and Dameon Berry took his place as Regional Coordinator for Eastern TN. Chapter members and leaders began attending a few events including local veteran service organization meetings, the TN Veteran Business Association annual meeting and the TN Cattlemen’s Association conference. The chapter’s financial situation was improved by a grant obtained by TSU’s Zena Clardy that included $20,000 for the TN Chapter of FVC over a 3 year period.
*Note this history tries to tell the larger story of the chapter's beginnings. Space does not allow the mentioning of each and every person that was involved at various stages in this process. In addition, this was written somewhat by memory, which is subject to error. Any omission of persons or events was not intentional.