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July 05
Intern Insights: Why I Chose GreenStone

​By: Zachary Ward

As I stand at the eve of my senior year at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and celebrate a little over a month here at GreenStone, it seems like the subjects at the forefront of my mind have been accounting, finance, and brainstorming ways to key information faster. These past three years have been about establishing myself in business world, but seldom have I taken time to deeply reflect on how agriculture has played a role in my success and shaped my character.​



As cheesy as it may sound, I remember walking through GVSU’s Mackinac Hall and stumbling on a painting that stopped me dead in my tracks: a row of cherry trees in full bloom, caught in the middle of a gentle breeze. Suddenly I was back home, lounging on the front porch of my parent’s home in Elk Rapids, and gazing out at an entire field of the crop that continues to define Michigan’s identity. My small town (and obviously its neighbor, Traverse City) have been shaped by agriculture, from its art to its tourism industry. Fond memories of my friends and I attending concerts at the National Cherry Festival or my family splitting a pound of cherries bought from a local farm on the drive home from town, with nothing left but a pile of pits by the time we pull in the driveway. 

My exposure to the Michigan’s cherry industry grew exponentially when I began my employment at Great Lakes Packing Company (GLPC) in Kewadin. I was initially hired in as a line captain, whose responsibilities included making sure employees at end of the production line are stocked with bags, lids, sugar, syrup, and other necessary inputs. Over the three summers I spent with GLPC, I shifted around a number of different positions, each teaching me a new aspect of the packing process. In production control, I helped management determine the speed the fruit gets sorted, destemmed, and pitted and amounts of cherries that would come off the line in a given period, logging these statistics for future decision making. My favorite position, however, was as the raw product receiver. More autonomy, a handful of job responsibilities such as creating receiving logs and taking pesticide samples, and the opportunity to work outside were incentive enough to keep me in the position for two summers. 

More than anything though, I admired the sense of ambition and close bonds that were commonplace at the plant. I attended school with the local growers’ children/nieces/nephews I interacted with, so we already had a common connection. When it came to the other employees, I felt like part of a family (which helps when everyone is spending 10+ hours together). Much of the staff belonged to one of two families that helped found the company, so everyone was motivated since they had a personal stake in the company’s history.

That’s what I love so much about GreenStone. From the short time I’ve been here, that strong sense of friendship, and even family, seems to exist between many of the appraisers, analysts, and other individuals here. Community comes second nature to the organization’s staff, who regularly makes appearances in community events and programs like Farm Forward Mentorship to help pass on values and relevant skillsets onto the next generation. Similar to the many farmers and ranchers they service, GreenStone has been around generations, recently celebrating 100 years. 

Many assume that those choosing a finance career path squarely focus on profit while disregarding servant business practices. Here at GreenStone, I’ve heard story after story about people seeing the positive change they’re making through helping farmers advance their business. That sort of meaningful work is why I’m studying business in the first place. ​

Zachary Ward is a credit intern at GreenStone's Grand Rapids branch.

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