Q&A With Governor Bill Lee

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Governor Bill Lee

Photo by Jeff Adkins

Governor Bill Lee reflects on his experience growing up on a Tennessee farm

How did your experience growing up on the farm shape who you are today?

The farm has been home my entire life. It’s where I raised four children and where much of my family still lives today, including my mom. The farm is as much a part of my identity as being a husband, father and man of faith. I learned how to drive at age 9 so I could feed the cattle every afternoon in the winter. On baling days, we’d get home from school and see 300 to 400 bales needing to be picked up and put in the barn before dark. It taught me a sense of responsibility at an early age that stuck with me while I was running the family business and now as governor. Although life looks a lot different these days, Maria and I still come home to the farm every weekend to regroup and be with our family; and, as our family grows, we are experiencing the farm in a new way – through the eyes of our grandchildren.

What are your biggest challenges on the farm?

Triple L is a fourth-generation farm, so many of the challenges come with planning for the future and keeping everything running from generation to generation. With 400 head of Hereford cattle, work never stops and I’m thankful my brother Steven has been able to take the lead.

How does being involved in agriculture shape your outlook as governor?

My administration is committed to supporting agriculture in our state. It’s who we are as Tennesseans, and I am proud of all the different aspects we represent, from small family farms to cutting-edge ag tech. What happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean. My first executive order as governor was for rural Tennessee and the steps we must take to ensure distressed counties, which are all rural, get the support they need to prosper.

Governor Bill Lee

Photo by Jeff Adkins

What role do youth organizations like FFA and 4-H play in developing future leaders for our industry?

My summers growing up consisted of showing calves at fairs, Hereford shows and 4-H shows across the Southeast. Each kid in my family raised a calf, and every morning we had to feed our calves and clean the stalls. The state 4-H Youth Livestock Exposition was one of the most thrilling weeks of my life – every year! My time with 4-H wasn’t just about agriculture or showing livestock, it was also about public speaking and leadership. It was a formative experience for me, and as governor, I’ve committed more than $600,000 in dedicated, recurring funding to support FFA and 4-H in our schools.

What lessons have you learned on the farm you can’t learn anywhere else?

Many of my earliest memories go back to picking blackberries. There are so many life lessons to be learned there – it’s hot and sweaty work, with all kinds of thorny obstacles, but the reward is sweet. As a kid I would pick blackberries for hours, brave the chiggers and rattlesnakes to get the best berries, and sell gallon jars of them for $5. You could say the farm not only taught me to work hard, but also how to run a business!

About the Farmer

Farm: Triple L Ranch

Crops & Livestock: Hereford cattle

Generation: Fourth

Farm Location: Fernvale

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