Meet our Team
The Division of Business Development is a team of professionals dedicated to helping you succeed in creating or expanding your agricultural, food, or forestry business. Assistant Commissioner Keith Harrison 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 Business Development
Keith Harrison began his career at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as an Agricultural Marketing Specialist in 1984 and served as Director of Marketing until the end of 2000. In 2001, he was named the Feed/Animal Health Marketing Manager at Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and served as the organization's Communication and Marketing Manager until early 2017.
Harrison then served as TDA’s Assistant Commissioner for Consumer and Industry Services, leading the regulatory programs affecting consumer protection and food safety until early 2019. He is now responsible for directing the department’s marketing, promotion, and development activities.
Harrison obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and his Master’s Degree in Business Administration in Marketing from Middle Tennessee State University. He is a 2017 graduate of the Tennessee Government Executive Institute.
Executive Assistant for Business Development
As Executive Assistant for Business Development, Rachel works with grants and contracts, meeting logistics, event planning, as well as assists the division’s assistant commissioner. From 2015 until mid-2019, Rachel worked in the Consumer and Industry Services division where she managed contracts and procurement. Prior to joining the Department of Agriculture’s staff, Rachel served seven years in the Tennessee State Senate, working for Lt. Governor John Wilder and Senate Republican Leader Ben Atchley. Rachel also has experience in nonprofit management.
Rachel attended Lipscomb University where she graduated with a degree in Political Science and History, with an emphasis in Public Administration.
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: Food Manufacturing
Mike Brown has been with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture since 2014, originally serving as Outreach Coordinator in the Consumer and Industry Services Division.
In his current role in TDA Business Development, he is a resource for new/expanding food manufacturers with developing marketing opportunities.
Prior to joining the department, Mike worked as a food marketing and product development consultant. With 36 years of experience in the food industry, he holds a Bachelors degree in Food Science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and a Masters of Science from Tennessee State University.
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.
In Whitney’s current role as International Marketing Consultant, she leads the Department’s trade-focused initiatives, promoting Tennessee value-added food, horticulture, livestock and genetics, and forestry and wood products abroad. She organizes and executes international trade shows and trade missions, as well as consults with growing Tennessee businesses, preparing them for entry into the global marketplace.
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.
Business Development Coordinator
Kyle joined the Department of Agriculture in August of 2018. As Business Development 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: 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: Marketing, Communications
Grant joined the Department of Agriculture in 2018 as an Ag Marketing Consultant. His duties primarily include fostering growth of the Pick Tennessee Products program. Grant also manages a cost share that affords Specialty Crop Growers in Tennessee the opportunity to become Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certified. Grant is passionate in his desire to support Tennessee’s Farmers and Ranchers.
Growing up in Wyoming, Grant was actively engaged in the FFA. He served as the Wyoming FFA Association State Reporter in 2009-2010. Grant moved to Nashville for an internship with RFD-TV and loved Tennessee so much, he decided to stay. Grant holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Communications from the University of Wyoming.
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.