4-H Expert Series: Steve Barbarick, President, Tractor Supply Company

By _Amaya_Collins_ September 22, 2016

It’s that time of year again. Tractor Supply Company’s (TSC) 4‑H Paper Clover Promotion launches on October 5 to benefit local 4‑H programs. The promotion makes it easy for Tractor Supply customers to support local 4‑H youth by purchasing a paper clover—the symbol of 4‑H—for $1. Over 1,500 Tractor Supply Stores hang the clovers on the wall as a symbol of support for 4‑H in their community. Since its launch in 2009, the promotion has raised $9.2 million.

Before this fall’s kickoff, I sat down with TSC President and Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Barbarick to discuss how the partnership came about, what it means to both organizations and the importance of communities.

Jennifer Sirangelo (JS): Thanks for talking with me today, Steve. I’m really excited about Paper Clover this year. In fact, every year, I’m more enthusiastic and grateful for the partnership between 4‑H and TSC. Remember how all this started?

Steve Barbarick (SB): Hi, Jennifer. You know, it’s funny. This was a partnership before it was even formal. Our stores have been hosting events for local 4‑H groups for many years. It wasn’t until probably six or seven years ago that we created a national partnership with 4‑H, but it’s been happening at the local level for a long time.

JS: It was a natural thing. It seems that almost every TSC employee and customer is a 4‑H alum, a 4‑H parent or a friend of 4‑H. Organizationally, we really share the same values.

SB: Exactly. 4‑H is rooted in so many of the communities we serve. It’s the cornerstone of agricultural education, building leaders and teaching skills that a lot of these youth wouldn’t have otherwise. The rural lifestyle is about self-reliance, family values, animals, land, and a sense of pride in how one lives. Agriculture is the foundation of all of this in our communities and 4‑H is the most universal organization in rural areas devoted to protecting, sustaining, and promoting agriculture.

JS: I think the main element for me is allowing more kids to experience the benefits of the rural lifestyle: the science, the learning about our land, working with your hands and the hard work it really takes to produce our food. So many kids would never get that exposure without a rural lifestyle partner like TSC.

SB: And that’s exactly why this partnership is so great.

JS: A goal of the Paper Clover Promotion is to build pride and confidence in our kids. How have you seen that come to life over the past few years in your stores?

SB: That’s something I see every day. The Paper Clover Promotion is a national partnership, but it’s really designed at the local level. You see the real value at the Temple, Texas, store, or the Muskegon, Michigan, store, or somewhere in Alabama, or Florida. 4‑H’ers will come in and the local clubs will stage fundraisers in our stores, whether that‘s a bake sale or a hot-dog cookout or even a car wash.

JS: And when 4‑H’ers walk in and see all those clovers on the wall they know their community supports them. That builds confidence. And it shows that Tractor Supply cares about kids in their communities.

SB: Yes, and we encourage our store managers and team members to reach out to 4‑H and vice versa. So through that relationship, the kids know that the community really supports them, and I see their confidence and leadership skills grow every day.

JS: It’s easy to see why we value your partnership. The Paper Clover Promotion isn’t just another sponsorship or fundraiser – thanks to TSC and the close relationship you have with your communities. It really takes a national and local shared commitment for this kind of local impact to happen. We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together this year.