Texas Agriculture June 3, 2016 : Page 16

Deep roots in agriculture, Farm Bureau Glasson steps down after 43-year Farm Bureau career By Julie Tomascik Associate Editor Dreams and a passion for ag-riculture would lead one young man—Vernie R. Glasson III—on a journey to become the execu-tive director and chief operating officer of the largest and most powerful farm and ranch organi-zation in Texas. He retires, stepping down af-ter 27 years at the helm and 43 years with the organization. It’s a career that spans four decades, major milestones and organizational growth. The era of change led by Glasson got its start on the fer-tile soil of San Patricio County, where he grew up on a cotton and grain farm. The seeds of po-tential were planted at a young age. His passion was nurtured, and the value of hard work was instilled by a family with deep roots in Texas agriculture. It was a Farm Bureau history more than 50 years in the mak-ing. He remembers his dad at-tending county and state Farm Bureau meetings. Glasson attend-ed the first two Texas Farm Bu-reau (TFB) Citizenship Seminars, now known as the Youth Lead-ership Conference, at the age of 16. That’s when Dick Mitchell, a TFB field representative, took the young man under his wing. “He started taking me to other nearby counties to talk about the seminar and what I learned and how important it was,” Glasson said. “I really decided back then that I would like to work for the Farm Bureau.” He didn’t know when or how. He just knew his career would most likely include the organiza-tion. Mitchell stayed in touch with Glasson throughout college and his years in the U.S. Air Force and tour in South Vietnam. While overseas, word of Farm Bureau job openings spread to Glasson, but the timing wasn’t right just yet. With a little luck, a field repre-sentative position came open in 1973, three years later. Glasson was hired. He packed up his fam-ily—wife Ann and two boys at the time—and headed to West Texas. In the land of sand storms and howling winds, Glasson stretched his South Texas roots, digging in for a long career with TFB. “I loved the country, loved the people,” Glasson said. “I still con-sider those folks as the ones who got me started in Farm Bureau.” His Farm Bureau career took a turn in 1975 when he moved his family to Washington, D.C., work-ing there for seven years as a lob-byist for the American Farm Bu-reau Federation (AFBF). “It was a long seven years, but a good seven years,” Glasson said. Two more children were born, American agriculture experienced significant changes and Glasson became AFBF’s chief lobbyist. “When you look back on that time, it’s kind of interesting to note that’s when this what I call bifurcation in agriculture really started—where we lost the mid-sized farm operations,” he said. Large farms grew, and small farms began to become more prominent. Policy changes at the federal level had long lasting ef-fects on the structure of American agriculture. But Texas called. The Glassons were ready, and a job at TFB was waiting. Over the years, he worked as a field representative, commod-ity specialist, lobbyist and senior manager of Public Affairs for TFB. His agricultural roots strength-ened. His reach stretched further. He was named executive direc-tor and chief operating officer in 1989. Glasson has seen many suc-16 J UNE 3 , 2016

Deep Roots in Agriculture, Farm Bureau

Julie Tomascik

Glasson steps down after 43-year Farm Bureau career

Dreams and a passion for agriculture would lead one young man—Vernie R. Glasson III—on a journey to become the executive director and chief operating officer of the largest and most powerful farm and ranch organization in Texas.

He retires, stepping down after 27 years at the helm and 43 years with the organization.

It’s a career that spans four decades, major milestones and organizational growth.

The era of change led by Glasson got its start on the fertile soil of San Patricio County, where he grew up on a cotton and grain farm. The seeds of potential were planted at a young age. His passion was nurtured, and the value of hard work was instilled by a family with deep roots in Texas agriculture.

It was a Farm Bureau history more than 50 years in the making. He remembers his dad attending county and state Farm Bureau meetings. Glasson attended the first two Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Citizenship Seminars, now known as the Youth Leadership Conference, at the age of 16. That’s when Dick Mitchell, a TFB field representative, took the young man under his wing.

“He started taking me to other nearby counties to talk about the seminar and what I learned and how important it was,” Glasson said. “I really decided back then that I would like to work for the Farm Bureau.”

He didn’t know when or how. He just knew his career would most likely include the organization.

Mitchell stayed in touch with Glasson throughout college and his years in the U.S. Air Force and tour in South Vietnam.

While overseas, word of Farm Bureau job openings spread to Glasson, but the timing wasn’t right just yet.

With a little luck, a field representative position came open in 1973, three years later. Glasson was hired. He packed up his family—wife Ann and two boys at the time—and headed to West Texas.

In the land of sand storms and howling winds, Glasson stretched his South Texas roots, digging in for a long career with TFB.

“I loved the country, loved the people,” Glasson said. “I still consider those folks as the ones who got me started in Farm Bureau.”

His Farm Bureau career took a turn in 1975 when he moved his family to Washington, D.C., working there for seven years as a lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

“It was a long seven years, but a good seven years,” Glasson said.

Two more children were born, American agriculture experienced significant changes and Glasson became AFBF’s chief lobbyist.

“When you look back on that time, it’s kind of interesting to note that’s when this what I call bifurcation in agriculture really started—where we lost the midsized farm operations,” he said.

Large farms grew, and small farms began to become more prominent. Policy changes at the federal level had long lasting effects on the structure of American agriculture.

But Texas called. The Glassons were ready, and a job at TFB was waiting.

Over the years, he worked as a field representative, commodity specialist, lobbyist and senior manager of Public Affairs for TFB. His agricultural roots strengthened. His reach stretched further.

He was named executive director and chief operating officer in 1989. Glasson has seen many successes, trials and disappointments.

He’s served with five presidents of the organization and many other farm and ranch leaders who dedicated their time as state board members.

TFB flourished under Glasson’s staff leadership.

The organization grew to more than 518,000 member-families in 206 county Farm Bureaus. His guidance kept the organization financially strong and positioned TFB as a major influence in Texas politics.

TFB now boasts the state’s largest agricultural political action committee—TFB Friends of Agriculture Fund (AGFUND), Inc. Its creation is one of Glasson’s many proud accomplishments.

“I know what it was like in the 1980s without AGFUND,” he said. “AGFUND really opened the door. It revived the legislative program at Farm Bureau and gave us the opportunity to tell our story.”

AGFUND’s first major test? Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

A turbulent relationship with Hightower became intolerable, Glasson noted. He had an agenda that was at odds with TFB’s vision. S.M. True was TFB president and he set the course to change the leadership of the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Countless activities across the state, including Pickups for Perry—a caravan of farmers traveling to Austin—were landmark events. Getting Rick Perry elected as agriculture commissioner and defeating Hightower distinguished Farm Bureau as a huge force in Texas politics.

AGFUND continued to work for Texas farmers and ranchers, helping to get former TFB Vice President Bob Turner elected to the Texas House of Representatives in a special election. It keeps doing the same today—standing for the bedrock principles of the organization and giving farmers and ranchers a stronger voice in Austin and Washington, D.C. Farm Bureau now has four county Farm Bureau leaders elected to the Texas House.

Urban agricultural education, social media, a strong internet presence and volunteer agricultural leader training were developed and expanded during his time. The TFB Radio Network was created and the organization has been recognized nationally for its member benefits and services.

A new training and disaster preparedness center was erected, and a professional staff continued to grow

“The most important thing really, as far as decisions that I’ve made, is the people that I’ve brought on board,” he said. “Because if it wasn’t for the people whom I have surrounded myself with, relied on every day, gotten mad with—not at, but with—and sometimes cried with, these programs wouldn’t have happened.”

The grassroots leadership is also paramount.

“You never stop building an organization. If you stop building, you’re going to die,” Glasson said.

TFB is built on principles that have stood the test of time and excelled with Glasson’s leadership. They’re based on tradition and incorporated with innovative ideas and technologies—just like the farmers and ranchers the organization represents.

“Farm Bureau is agriculture,” he said. “What we do, we do only for members. We are the voice of agriculture. Our people are.”

The relationships and friendships have grown and strengthened with respect and resolve. So, too, has his family. The Glassons have been married for almost 49 years and have raised three sons and a daughter and are proud grandparents of seven.

“I just thank Farm Bureau for giving Vernie the opportunity he’s had and for supporting us. We just have loved it,” Ann said. “Vernie loves Farm Bureau. He loves working with all the employees, and I can’t say enough good things about Farm Bureau.”

As he bids his final farewell to his Farm Bureau career, Glasson isn’t walking away from agriculture. He’s returning to it in a sense. He and Ann plan to spend more time at Chigger Ridge, their Coryell County farm, where they raise meat goats and donkeys. The rocky soil is a little different than the fertile grounds of the Texas Coastal Bend. But the goal remains the same—working hard to reap the benefits from the land.

He’ll keep an eye on TFB from afar, proud of a job well done and confident the Voice of Texas Agriculture stays strong in the future.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Deep+Roots+in+Agriculture%2C+Farm+Bureau/2500398/307614/article.html.

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