At age 17, Tammy Darbyshire had never been on a bus, let alone an airplane. Yet, she bravely left her home and everything she knew in Tennessee to join the United States Air Force. In San Antonio, Texas, Tammy was greeted by the sharp shouts of the drill sergeant as she stepped off of the plane for basic training. He yelled at his new trainees, “You’re not going to be able to do this! You’re going to fail! That’s my number one job, is to make sure that you don’t go through basic training!”
Tammy wasn’t deterred. She was determined and achieved her dream of serving in the Air Force.
After basic training, Tammy trained at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and was eventually stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. She served during Operation Desert Storm, as a Security Specialist.
When she retired from the Air Force, Tammy married a farmer from Kansas and was once again thrown into a way of life very different from everything she knew. She and her husband, along with her husband’s brother and father, farm about 2,500 acres of corn and beans, as well as tend to 3,000 head of cattle each year between the farm and the feedlot. Tammy works on the farm and in addition to her off-farm job at Frontier Farm Credit.
Tammy’s experience in the Air Force and on the farm add to the wealth of expertise she brings to the office every day. Tammy said, “The number one thing I learned in the military was teamwork. While in the military, you know you have a platoon; you have people that you know will always have your back. For example, when you’re in basic training… it didn’t matter the weather, you were doing low man crawls under barbed wire, you were climbing over walls and you always had someone there who would help you over.”
Tammy feels this same sense of teamwork at Farm Credit. “Being a teammate at Farm Credit is so easy because of the people I get to work with. They are amazing. Everyone in the company…if you call them for help, you know they’re going to be there and if they can’t, they will find someone that can.” In her experience, the collaboration in the Farm Credit office translates directly to the customer. Tammy said, “I think that the customer can feel that [sense of teamwork] when they walk in the office. They know that we’re going to take care of them.”
Tammy also learned respect in the military, a value that she employs every day at Farm Credit. She said, “You respect each other like you do in the military…Whether it’s a joyous time or it’s a sad time. You’re always there with each other. It’s just amazing to me how the people I work with make my job so much easier.” This way of treating one another permeates from the Farm Credit staff to their customers. Tammy shared how she and her coworkers take a genuine interest in their customers’ lives, demonstrating respect and also working to build authentic and lasting relationships with those whom they serve.
As a farmer herself, Tammy understands the needs of her customers. She knows the right questions to ask and what time of year to ask them; she understands the anxieties they may be feeling about the weather, the markets and their crops; and she understands the joy and pride that they feel about their work. She has a firsthand appreciation for the great dedication required in agriculture to make it as a farmer, similar to the dedication she showed as a young woman of 17 when she stepped off that plane in San Antonio. Tammy said of agriculture, “You have to love it to do it, to spend the long hours doing what farmers do.”
Reflecting on her life, Tammy is thankful for what she has, considering the farm, her job and her family. She said, “When you’re in a fox hole, be it in training or real life … you appreciate everything else around you because you know it’s not a given. You know people that have served in the military…and you listen to their families and their stories and know you’re not guaranteed to be there the next day. I’m blessed to have the family that I have. I’m blessed to have the job that I have and work with the people that I do, because I know from the military that not everybody has that.”
Tammy joined more than 30 veterans in Washington, D.C. at the Farm Credit Farmer Veteran Fly-In in July 2018. Farm Credit invited these veterans to Washington to help policymakers understand the importance of programs that enable returning service members to forge meaningful careers in agriculture. Tammy also served as a panelist at the Senate Agriculture Committee, sharing her journey with policymakers.