Michigan’s food processors have been in the spotlight much of the past several weeks after a Food and Agriculture Strategic Growth Initiative was proposed in Gov. Snyder’s budget. Food processors are a large part of Michigan’s agriculture industry that produces an economic impact of $91.4 billion on the state’s economy each year. In fact, food processing alone produces an economic impact of nearly $25 billion!
Food processing in Michigan is big business for many companies, many of whom can be seen on grocery store shelves in your neighborhood. In addition to local and regional brands like Kowalski Sausage, Better Made Snack Foods, and Country Fresh, Michigan is also home to many nationally recognized household brands, including: Gerber, Kellogg’s, and Jiffy Mixes.
The proposed Food Agriculture Strategic Growth Initiative would assist primarily small to medium size processors by funding research, education and technical assistance efforts with the aim of removing barriers and increasing opportunities identified by food processors, agri-business, and farmers. Designed around a competitive grant process, the initiative would support research into technology innovation, workforce preparation, food safety, environmental protection technology and food processing.
Michigan Food Processing Facts:
- Nearly $25 billion in economic impact to the state
- Employs more than 130,000 Michigan residents
- Michigan ranks 19th in the nation with 1,841 licensed food processors
Several individuals from GreenStone recently had the opportunity to join the Michigan FFA at their annual State Convention on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. The convention was full of excitement and provided a great opportunity for the GreenStone team to engage with the up-and-coming generation of agricultural leaders.
The festivities got started with a reception, co-sponsored by GreenStone and the Michigan Farm Bureau, honoring Michigan FFA Star Award finalists. At the reception, GreenStone’s executive vice president of customer delivery, Jack Kelly, addressed attendees and talked about GreenStone’s commitment to agriculture and developing young leaders. He also noted that many of GreenStone’s 475 employees have been or are currently involved in agriculture.
Following the reception, GreenStone’s President and CEO, Dave Armstrong, kicked off the evening’s general session with a check presentation for $25,000 to the Michigan FFA Foundation. Supporting the FFA and ensuring the success of the next generation of agricultural leaders is vital to the industry and GreenStone.
Here, Armstrong explains why GreenStone continues to invest in this important organization:
Fall is here. Kids are back in school, the leaves are changing colors and falling to the ground, each morning begins with a crisp chill, and harvest is in full swing. While those are all telltale signs that fall has arrived, they also signal election season is rapidly approaching. As is the case every four years, this November’s election will include the presidential race as well and many other important races on the state and national levels.
I recently had a chance to sit with GreenStone’s President and CEO, Dave Armstrong, to talk about the upcoming elections. Here is what he had to say about the importance of voting and making sure your voice is heard:
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYkbw_Mjb8E[/youtube]
Dave also discussed the much debated Farm Bill and the frustration and uncertainty felt by the agriculture community.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC9tIG8WZRM[/youtube]
Over the past several years GreenStone has become more politically involved in supporting candidates that support agriculture. One way that GreenStone is able to show support is through the MI GreenStone PAC. Dave took the time to explain the MI GreenStone PAC the role it plays in Michigan politics.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqHcpoeggtI[/youtube]
While not setup as a political organization, the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan (ALM) is a group that includes GreenStone as well as several other commodity groups and helps share the story of Michigan agriculture. Dave discussed the group and the purpose it serves.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_INNoQ_Du4o[/youtube]
Whatever your political persuasion may be, remember to participate in the process this November by going to your local polling place and casting your vote for the candidates and issues that will benefit you and your community. We’ll keep working hard to advocate for you and the agriculture industries in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin!
How many years have you been with GreenStone? What has been your experience?
These types of questions are coming up more and more in conversations which should not be a surprise to anyone. The Wall Street versus Main Street battle continues to rage on through our country, and around the globe. It trickles down to us through main stream media and we get bits and pieces of the new regulations, but we really never know what it means to us until we get a loan and the requirements, conditions, and additional information that in some cases really make it feel like you are signing your life away.
It is in this financial world that I remain proud to call myself an employee of GreenStone. We are old fashioned in the regard that we value relationships. With a 97 percent customer satisfaction rating, I would put our scores and customer responses up against anyone in the industry. We are accountable for our decisions as loan officers since we are responsible for the servicing of your loan and your financial well-being until you pay us off. It is a philosophy that has separated us from others in the financial industry, and has put us in a position to offer a similar line of products to our customers year-in and year-out.
Just to put some perspective on all of this, when the industry suffered through the 2008 lending crisis, everyone that was lending on vacant land and construction ran to the nearest exit. Still, GreenStone continued to increase its dividend to its customers, kept doing construction loans (owner-builder and contracted residential homes) along with recreational/vacant land loans. It is that consistency that you will find with GreenStone. What we sell to you is a relationship and an experience you will not find anywhere else. We are unique in that we offer you something that you cannot find around any corner on Main Street, or for that matter Wall Street.
Throughout the year I will continue to answer your questions. In the meantime if you want to reply with any questions between now and then, please feel free to post your questions and I will be prompt in my responses.
Over the last couple of days I had the opportunity to attend the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association in Traverse City and two things really stuck out for me. One, it is amazing what a year will do for our economy. Loan officers are so busy they barely have time to attend this annual conference with the number of refinances and new purchases happening throughout the Michigan. Second, after visiting Traverse City I am reminded on how amazing Michigan really is. After going to the 17th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort Hotel and looking over Lake Michigan, it is no surprise that Traverse City is no longer a national secret and people are buying up property around the area to take a piece of paradise home with them. Vacant land, home sites and recreational property have boomed over the last year with numbers that we have not seen in more than years. There is a renewed interest in purchasing property and building that second home on the lake.
The last blog I did on vacant land was about a year ago and after this trip over the weekend I felt that it was about time to refocus on what we will offer in terms of recreational land financing and some of the things to look out for as we underwrite your loan(s).
First let’s hit on some of our basic terms and definitions that we use strictly at GreenStone.
What is a home site?
GreenStone defines a home site loan as a loan on property that is less than 10 acres and does not have any structures on it. If you want to buy a property with a purchase price greater than $125,000 we would require a down payment above our usual 20 percent down. These types of loans are more risky and need to have more of a down payment to offset the risk. Typically GreenStone will not lend more than $100,000 on this type of loan.
What is recreational property?
For our eligibility purpose, our definition of recreation property is real estate greater than 10 acres that will be used primary for recreational purposes, such as, hunting or fishing. GreenStone would also provide financing for the construction of a second home or additional outbuildings that you may want to place on the property.
What is vacant land?
In many regards this is very similar to recreation property in that it is property over 10 acres, but this property would typically be used primarily for farming purposes. The typical down payment for a loan is 20 percent for loans under $250,000. If the property is being purchased for more than $8,500 per acre and/or the loan amount is over $250,000, then additional down payment requirements would be recommended to offset the additional risk of these types of transactions.
It is a great time to look at financing a new piece of property with interest rates being at historical lows. Many people are taking advantage of this period in history to acquire that piece of property they will have in their family for generations. You can find out more about our interest rates, office locations and GreenStone’s history at our website www.greenstonefcs.com
or you may call 800-444-3276 for a loan officer near you.
What a wild ride 2012 has been! We started the year off with a very mild, almost non-existent, winter, unseasonably warm temperatures in early March followed by frost, freeze and snow that devastated fruit crops and now incredibly dry conditions throughout most of Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. These conditions have helped remind everyone that farming is risky business!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with GreenStone’s President and CEO, Dave Armstrong about the volatility we have seen so far in weather patterns and what exactly we can expect to see moving forward. In our latest CEO Footnotes blog, Dave weighs in on this and the recently passed disaster relief program for fruit farmers in northwest Michigan.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psVBfZe77hM[/youtube]
With drought conditions, farmers and consumers alike face uncertainty in the marketplace with rising food costs. Dave discussed what farmers can expect, and also explained the trickle-down effect that causes consumers to see their grocery bills rise.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn3hYYXb2Zk[/youtube]
Dave also discussed recently passed legislation aimed at providing low-interest loans to fruit producers and processors devastated by the harsh weather conditions this spring. The Michigan Legislature passed the Agricultural Disaster Loan Origination Program Act of 2012 in late June and the bill was quickly signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xEzEam-jXk[/youtube]
While it was not required that GreenStone participate in this legislation, Dave explains why it was critical for the cooperative to be involved.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvmEsSUo0io[/youtube]
Finally, Dave also explained why this legislation was such a high priority for everyone throughout the state and what drove the legislation’s quick passage.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPWNJ8lg0C0[/youtube]
Thank you for reading this post of CEO Footnotes! Keep an eye out for our next post where Dave will discuss the results our cooperative received from the recently completed customer satisfaction survey!
The High Five for Wellness Program launched a pilot program in late February at the East Lansing, Michigan office called Weight Loss Warriors. Weight Loss Warriors is a program that I designed to encourage and support employee’s weight loss goals. Employees enrolled in the group meet every two weeks and weigh-in every month. This is not a diet program as participants can eat whatever they want; however the group does operate under the guideline that calories in must be less than calories out. To accomplish this, the program highly recommends a healthy/balanced diet and regular exercise.Members of the group track calories and physical activity levels to be able to better manage their calories. Tracking is one of the best methods to gain a cognitive perception of how to break self-defeating habits. Members also learn about nutrition, fitness, and motivation.
A side from tracking being highly recommended by professionals, I learned first-hand how tracking could give me a kick start. It began in college when I decided I wanted to get rid of the “freshman 15”. It was a dreaded process; I knew I was overweight and my body had changed for the worst. So I decided to take action and committed to doing the following:
Get support from friends and family
Gain awareness of my behaviors
Track all eating and physical activity
Get moving, exercise every day
Eat nutritionally and in moderation
Set reasonable goals and be kind to myself
It was not easy; however these things lead to my weight loss success then and once again several years later. Tracking allows you to identify your behavior and to modify when necessary. It also attributes to the true realization of what you’re eating and how much you’re burning off. Members of the Weight Loss Warrior group who regularly use a tracking mechanism have had grand success with progressing toward their goals. I tell every member “you will get out of it what you put into it” and tracking allows you to blatantly see what you’re putting in and burning off. There are several free tracking programs available online or on mobile application. Weight Loss Warriors recommends www.loseit.com
, however similar programs such as www.fitday.com
are equally as useful. An alternative low tech strategy is to simply keep a paper journal.
The Weight Loss Warrior’s members who have stayed committed have lost on average 4 lbs. per month and as a whole the group has lost well over 200 lbs. since March. They are proving that they are strong enough to reach their goals and will reap the reward of improving the quality of their lives. I am so proud of them for sticking to it!
It’s easier than you think and today is the perfect day to start. Try tracking this week and then adopt my other five actions to kick start your own health and wellness routine. If I could do it and other GreenStone employees are doing it so can you!
Many of us want to improve our level of wellness, but where do we start? I recently took a 50-question wellness survey from the National Wellness Institute to determine which areas of my overall wellness were the strongest, and which were the weakest. The assessment evaluated:
- Physical Activity
- Self Care
- Social and Environmental Wellness
- Emotional Awareness and Sexuality
- Emotional Management
- Intellectual Wellness
- Occupational Wellness
- Spirituality and Values
After examining the results, I was able to identify a couple of areas that needed improvement. I find that I am more proactive when I have one or two areas to focus on than when I try to focus on all of them at once.
An area I have chosen to target over the next two years is “intellectual wellness,” or being open to new ideas and experiences and determining to expand my knowledge and improve my skills. I plan to do this by returning to school to attain my graduate degree in business. I share this as an example of how I’ve chosen to focus on one of my weak areas, but also as a way to initiate a farewell.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on health and wellness with you. I hope by taking this assessment and being engaged with wellness, you are able to find an area to focus on to live your best life today and beyond!
Take Wellness Assessment
Summer is coming, and quickly! While summer months are often the busiest for many GreenStone customers, summertime is also a great chance to spend some quality time together with family. Spending time together can mean a variety of things. For some, it may mean taking a trip – near or far – to relax and reconnect. For others, it may mean working together on the family farm, sharing experiences and building memories that will last a lifetime.
I recently had an opportunity to discuss summer plans and favorite vacation spots with GreenStone CEO, Dave Armstrong. Dave shared some of his family’s favorite vacation spots from around Michigan, including the beaches in South Haven.
Dave also talked about how he and his family spent summers when he was growing up. His parents both worked, but that did not mean that they were not able to spend valuable time together. Dave talked about spending summers helping his father work and some of the great memories he has from that time together.
The time spent with his father during the summers also helped shape Dave’s career path. It helped him gain an appreciation for agriculture and led to his career with the Farm Credit System and GreenStone.
No matter how your family spends their summers, the important thing is making lasting memories together!
This weekend concluded my Fresh Food Challenge. Overall, it was a great learning experience, but it was also (as described) very challenging! It took a lot of time and planning to prepare all of my meals from fresh foods! Being forced to monitor everything I ate allowed me notice some of my old eating habits. I had to stop myself from popping in a piece of gum or candy, drinking a can of pop, or swinging by the sub shop. On the other hand, I was able to see and feel the benefits of eating fresh foods and will incorporate more of them into my daily diet.
To wrap up, here are a few of the situations I faced this weekend:
- Lunch at a restaurant: I ended up getting a grilled chicken salad, seasoned only with pepper, with all fresh vegetables, and boiled egg. Luckily the restaurant we went to made their vinaigrette from scratch, or I would have gone with a simple oil and vinegar. (Mitchell’s Fish Market)
- Social outing with friends: This meant no alcohol (this had not been a problem until Friday night!) I may have bent the guidelines just a touch and had a hard cider made from just fresh apple juice and yeast, no sulfides or preservatives added.
- Family gathering: There was a spread of delicious appetizers, cake and cookies, however I stuck to strictly fruit. This was hard, especially because I love dessert!
- Lack of structure: During the week my life is very planned, so I would pack my lunch/dinner and since that was all I had to eat, I never thought twice about alternative options. The weekend, however, allowed for more idle time to think about what I could be eating instead. I stood in front of the pantry several times staring at the foods I could not eat.
Today was my first day off of the challenge, and I still brought watermelon, a pear, and tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with vinegar, basil, and oregano to work…but I may have also brought some dessert too. :)