Meet our Team
The Division of Agricultural Advancement is a team of professionals dedicated to helping you succeed in creating or expanding your agricultural, food, or forestry business. Assistant Commissioner Ed Harlan and his team of agribusiness development consultants are prepared to help you in all phases of business development. Contact one of us today for more information on how we can help.
Assistant Commissioner for Agricultural Advancement
Ed Harlan has been with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture since 2003 and is responsible for directing marketing, promotion and development activities.
Harlan is a farmer, businessman and former Maury County executive. During Harlan's time at the department, he has developed strategic plans to expand current business and grow new business within Tennessee's agriculture sector and established close working relationships with agencies and businesses statewide to ensure great cooperation and customer service.
His efforts during the past few years have contributed to an increase in corporate and on-farm investments in Tennessee.
Agricultural Advancement Coordinator
Kyle joined the Department of Agriculture in August of 2018. As Agricultural Advancement Coordinator, he focuses on agribusiness and rural development, including supporting the Governor’s Rural Task Force and managing the Agriculture Enterprise Fund.
Hensley most recently worked at the University of Tennessee Herbert College of Agricultural as a program coordinator for recruitment. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee.
Kyle grew up in Lenoir City and was an active 4-Her. He is an avid sports fan, especially for the Tennessee Volunteers. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time outdoors and with family. Kyle and his wife, Jennifer, recently had a baby girl named Mary Beth.
Expertise: Farm Direct Businesses
Debbie Ball has been with the Department of Agriculture since 2008, originally serving as the statewide outreach coordinator for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. She also managed the division’s producer and consumer web services. She was named director of marketing in 2013.
In her current role, she manages the Pick Tennessee Products program and works to provide assistance for new and existing businesses. She also directs the activities of the Agricultural Marketing Consultants and coordinates the Specialty Crop Block Program, along with other programs that are a part of the division’s activities.
Before coming to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Ball held positions in both marketing and advertising companies and spent several years serving as the communications coordinator for the Tennessee Pork Producers Association. She was raised on her family’s farm in Coffee County where her family ran a purebred hog operation.
Expertise: International Marketing and Trade
Whitney Flatt has been with the Department of Agriculture since 2016, originally serving as a program coordinator for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). During her time with TAEP, she oversaw the grain storage, hay storage, livestock feed storage, and livestock working facility cover programs. She also served as TAEP’s outreach specialist, providing customer support to more than 3,000 producers annually.
Prior to joining the department, Whitney worked as a project coordinator for the 2Seeds Network, a development non-profit based in Tanzania, East Africa. Her work with 2Seeds centered on agribusiness training, value and supply chain management, and human capital development.
Whitney holds a Bachelor of Science in International Relations from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), with her focus of study centering on food security and international development. While attending MTSU, she studied abroad in Czech Republic, Honduras, and Israel, as well as interned for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a D.C.-based policy think tank, with their Global Food Security Project.
Whitney is a native of Newbern, Tennessee.
Expertise: Forestry, Wood Products
Neil has more than 13 years of experience in the forestry industry. His previously served in the role of State Forest Program Specialist with the Division of Forestry. Owens has a history of forestry consulting in the private sector prior to joining the department, providing management strategies, promoting sustainable forestry initiatives, and managing more than 20,000 acres of timberland for investment firms and private landowners.
Neil is a West Virginia native and moved to Tennessee to obtain his Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Resource Management from the University of Tennessee. In his spare time, he enjoys off-roading, golf, and fly-fishing. Neil and his wife, Dr. Laura Craig-Owens, have a son, Wilder.
Expertise: Livestock, Meat Processing
Wendy came to the Department of Agriculture in 2007 to work with the newly created Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. Wendy worked as the coordinator for the cattle genetics, livestock equipment, veterinarian, and livestock market programs. In 2009, she was promoted to Livestock Marketing Specialist overseeing the market news reporters and livestock graders, and working with producers in all aspects of livestock marketing.
Wendy was raised on her family’s dairy and row crop operation in West Tennessee. She participated in numerous 4-H and FFA judging events and attended yearly conferences. Wendy worked full-time while completing her B.S. in Agriculture and her M.B.A. from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She and her husband, Davy, co-manage Davy's family farm, where they live with their daughter, Riley. Wendy oversees cattle marketing options in both registered and commercial herds for sales across the southeast and is the co-owner of DS Farm Supply, located in McMinnville.