Did you know we have a mobile site?

Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
My Access Login
Advanced Search
Open Fields Blog
Bookmark and Share
February 09
The Benefits of Buying Your Own Hunting Land

Mike Kennedy, GreenStone Senior Financial Services Officer in Ionia, Michigan, shares his thoughts on the benefits of buying your own hunting land.

Behind The Scene - Mike Kennedy - Wisconsin Turkey 2014.jpg 
 

What is your favorite outdoor activity and why?

My favorite outdoors activity is hunting—especially turkey hunting in the spring and archery deer hunting in the fall. In my household, hunting is a family event and not just something I do alone.

Is there a particular place you love to go to experience the outdoors?

While I love to travel and hunt other parts of the United States, there is something special about being able to hunt on your own land. Owning my own parcel allows me to do habitat improvement projects, which improves quantity and quality of wildlife on my land. When you own your own land, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to make improvements. I also don’t have the worry that the parcel might get sold at a future date after I have spent hours improving the land. Some of the projects I do include planting food plots, planting trees, building wildlife ponds, and doing timber management. There is something special about seeing your hard work pay off. 

What recommendations do you have for someone thinking about buying recreational land?

My recommendation to anyone looking to buy recreational land is to first determine your primary goal for the property. If possible, find a parcel that will require a minimal amount of work to get it how you want it. While any parcel can be improved, it is always easier to buy land that already has the features you are looking for without a lot of hard work. 


 

Reading to buy your own hunting ground? Contact the experts at GreenStone today! 


February 09
Visit GreenStone at the Winter Potato Conference

GreenStone will be at the 2016 Winter Potato Conference, Feb. 10-12 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lansing, Michigan. Stop by our table and enter for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Tractor Supply Company.83gG8okH.jpg

The conference is a perfect opportunity for the potato industry to come together for networking and educational workshops. We’ll see you there!

There is still time to register for the conference. Visit the Michigan Potato Industry Commission website for more details!

February 03
100 Years Yielding Millions More For You

​The start of 2016 marks Farm Credit’s centennial anniversary; when you tie that with the 11th year of GreenStone’s patronage program, it means 100 years yielding millions more for you!

Because GreenStone is owned by the hardworking people we support, we are proud to return $35 million of our net earnings back to members like you. That means money back in your pocket which you can reinvest in your operation, give back to your community, or devote to the needs of  your family and home. As a financial cooperative, GreenStone is committed to remaining a stable, reliable association who will continue to be here, supporting our customers with a little extra, however they choose to use it.

Through the decades, we have developed deep roots in the rural communities we call home. We have built a 100 year foundation that has stood the test of time and affords us the strength to give back to our members, even in the tough years.
This year, we are again looking forward to Patronage Day, which will be on March 23. We hope to see you in the branch, picking up your check and connecting with your friends and neighbors.

While markets may shift and change, there is one thing of which you can be certain: we will be here to support you. Through the tough times—now and in the future—GreenStone is committed to our customers and to ensuring that patronage is a benefit of membership.

January 29
A Century of Partnership

This July, GreenStone will officially be 100…a century of history holding a collection of memories, challenges, and triumphs. As we reflect on what has brought us to where we are today, we can’t help but first recognize the reason we are here – you, our dedicated, hardworking members. It is because of our cooperative owners that GreenStone has reached this significant milestone, and we are proud to commemorate it together. 

The Farm Credit System was established July 17, 1916 when President Wilson signed the Federal Farm Loan Act into law. Almost one year later the first long-term, low interest amortized agricultural loan was made on April 10, 1917 in Larned, Kansas. As the years marched on, Farm Credit was there supporting our nation’s farmers through some of the most trying times in American history: two World Wars, the Great Depression and the 1980s farm crisis. Through it all, we have stood the test of time with you, and fortified our reputation as a stable and reliable financial institution. 

One hundred years and a mission as simple and strong as it has always been: to provide reliable and consistent credit and financial services for rural communities and agriculture. And while we are consistent in that mission, it allows us to adapt with the requirements of the modern world. You can be assured we will continue to meet your changing needs and remain a steady source of funding for our borrowers, day in and day out, amidst market fluctuations and economic flares.

We acknowledge and honor our long and rich history, yet this anniversary is certainly not all about reflecting on the past. Today’s rural communities are innovative, expanding and active, and we are evolving to meet their needs. From technology advancements to innovative community outreach, we are advancing the way we provide service to you and the communities we call home. And we are doing it in a responsible and financially dependable way to ensure we are here to celebrate the next 100 years with you as well.  

As we move forward, GreenStone is committed to supporting organizations, programs and initiatives dedicated to advancing rural communities and agriculture – today and tomorrow. From encouraging the new generation of producers, to helping educate consumers about the importance of agriculture, GreenStone’s commitment to thriving rural communities extends beyond providing financial services.

The launch of GreenStone’s Farm Forward Mentorship program is one way we are fostering that focus on the future. The inaugural class of the program includes eight mentor and mentee pairs from across our territory, allowing seasoned professionals to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of farmers. We appreciate the vision and commitment it takes to remain successful over time in agriculture and constantly evolving rural industries, and we are pleased to be the conduit that will help share that vision, passion and knowledge. We believe the future of our industry will be defined by individual fresh perspectives, and we will do what we can to nurture that growing entrepreneurial spirit.

What began as the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 has grown into a successful financial network supporting rural communities and agriculture. The last 100 years have set us on a path that leads to even greater events to come. As we look forward to the next century, we are proud to be part of this legacy – your legacy – of providing the food, fuel and fiber that keeps America running.


 1916 07 17 Founding the System.jpg
             President Wilson signing the Federal Farm Loan Act.
January 29
Supporting our Future Farmers

By Corey Fanslau

GreenStone is committed to supporting organizations, programs and initiatives dedicated to advancing agriculture – today and tomorrow. Future Farmers of America – FFA – is one such organization.

Over the past several years the northeast Wisconsin region has raised donations with “jeans Fridays” for a local FFA chapter. In addition to funding, our team loves to get involved. Ann Klemp, AgriConsumer financial services officer, is the long-time secretary of the Clintonville FFA Alumni Chapter, and I currently am serving as President. We meet about once every other month at the GreenStone branch office in Clintonville. We assist the Clintonville FFA chapter with monetary support and volunteer time at FFA events. To supplement funds raised with the annual Nut & Bolt sale, we’re now planning the second annual Mind Bender Trivia contest. In its first year, the contest raised over $2,000 for the Alumni Scholarship Fund, and we’re looking forward to more participation this year. The Mind Bender Trivia Contest will be held April 3 at Clintonville High School.

We are committed, both personally and as an organization, to supporting youth in agriculture. It is very gratifying to have played a small part in helping our local students achieve their goals in FFA. Our hope is that these young individuals will continue to contribute to agriculture and continue to support the FFA in the future.FullSizeRender.jpg 
Recent FFA Scholarship winners, Mike Klemp and Taylor Lohoff with Corey Fanslau. Both students were awarded $500.

 

Corey Fanslau is a senior financial services officer at GreenStone’s Clintonville, Wisconsin office.

December 16
Choose the Best Wood to Burn in Your Fireplace or Woodstove

Though there are many kinds of wood to burn in your fireplace or wood stove, not all wood performs equally.

Fireplaces provide a cozy, romantic atmosphere and can save you money on your heating bill. Though, there are many kinds of wood to burn in your fireplace or wood stove, not all wood performs equally. Some types provide longer, cleaner burning than others—and are, therefore, a better option than other kinds of wood.

Wood types:

Well-seasoned (two to three years) hardwoods are the best for fireplaces. These include oak, cherry, maple, walnut and ash. Of these, seasoned oak is usually considered the best for burning in fireplaces & woodstoves.

Burning time frame:

Oak and other hardwoods burn for longer periods (several hours, usually) than softwoods (pine and other needle-bearing trees, for example).When you burn hardwoods in the evening, you may have a few embers left in the morning. If you burn softer woods, this is rarely the case.

Choose wood wisely:

Choose only hardwood that has been seasoned (aged) at least a year. Fresh wood has a lot of moisture content. Therefore, it will not burn as well and will create much more smoke. In addition to using hardwood, use only wood intended for use in a fireplace–never use treated wood (construction lumber, for example) in your fireplace. This wood may give off toxic fumes and burn too hot.

Creosote:

Creosote is a residue that, if built-up inside chimneys, can cause chimney fires. Too much moisture in the wood you burn, whether it is softwood or hardwood, can lead to a quick build-up of creosote in your chimney. This is another reason to only use aged, dry wood.

Considerations:

It is fine to start a fire with softwoods (using these as kindling) and then add hardwoods to the mix. It may be tempting to buy only softwoods as these are much cheaper than hardwood. If tempted, keep in mind that you'll go through a lot more softwoods than you would hardwoods (due to burning times). Don't take someone's word on the age of firewood. If it looks heavy, solid and green, it probably is. Aged wood feels a little lighter and sounds hollower because the moisture is gone.

Source: ehow.com​

December 16
Michigan Out of Doors Fans Vote for Most Unique Deer Blind

We were excited to collaborate with Michigan Out of Doors TV this fall on a contest to find Michigan’s most unique deer blind!

Many of you submitted photos of your blind to the Michigan Out of Doors TV Facebook page​, and show hosts Jimmy Gretzinger and Jordan Browne narrowed it down to the top three. From there, you voted for your favorites, and Kirk Geldersma was declared the winner!

12310493_971834086223318_2998983889929406624_n.jpg

Kirk will have his blind featured on an upcoming episode and also wins a GreenStone prize pack! Congrats, Kirk!

Stay tuned to our Facebook page throughout the year for more fun with Michigan Out of Doors TV! You can catch new episodes on your local PBS station, or anytime on their website.

December 15
​Sustainability a 'Balancing Act' for Farmers​

​​​​​Without question, U.S. farmers are a critically important resource in feeding a rapidly growing global population that's expected to rise above 9 billion people by 2050. However, those same producers face a paradox: how to maintain crop yields and livestock output on fewer farms, while also adopting sustainable practices that ensure long-term environmental health. 

"There's no question that sustainability is a balancing act for farmers," said Mike Hogan, coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Team at The Ohio State University. "There are clearly agricultural practices that are profitable but hard on the environment, yet I think most producers understand that such an approach can eventually catch up with them."

Generally speaking, sustainability is defined as practices that are environmentally friendly, economically feasible and socially acceptable. While many major companies have adopted sustainability platforms in recent years, the potential ripple effect from agriculture is much larger. For example:

  • About 14 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions stem from agricultural production, such as equipment emissions, livestock and manure fermentation, and field burning. However, a broader United Nations report puts agriculture's share at about 50 percent, based on emissions from land-use change and deforestation, as well as the overall chain of processing and distribution activities needed to move most agricultural commodities to market.

  • Just over half of all U.S. land is devoted to agricultural use, which means sustainable farming practices can have a sizable effect on reducing the 1.72 billion tons of topsoil lost each year through cropland erosion.

  • ​Farms and ranches use 80 percent of the U.S. consumptive water supply, which highlights the importance for producers to maximize water efficiency while minimizing potential runoff from fertilizers and pesticides. 

"Farmers are generally good stewards of the land, and are in the best position to get in front of issues like these," said John Jones, senior vice president of commercial lending at GreenS​tone Farm Credit Services in East Lansing, Mich. "Sustainability is one path to help resolve these challenges, rather than getting on a path where someone decides to legislate the solutions." 

Due to the wide diversity of U.S. producers, sustainability approaches are not a "one size fits all" proposition. Over 60 percent of the nation's crop and livestock production is driven by just 8 percent of U.S. farms5, so the benefits of new sustainable practices in those operations may not be immediately apparent. On the other hand, smaller operators who find creative ways to sell their products at farmers' markets or other "buy local" venues could reap some nice early returns in revenue and community outreach. With that in mind, here's a sampling of sustainable agriculture practices with broad potential application across the 15-state AgriBank District:

  • Cover crops. Put simply, cover crops are a low-risk, high-return sustainability practice that can help prevent erosion, enhance soil quality, control weeds and pests, and improve the land's ability to handle heavy rains or searing drought. According to a national survey by the Conservation Technology Information Center, cover crop use is gaining favor. In fact, surveyed producers reported a 30 percent increase in year-over-year cover crop plantings from 2014 to 2015. As an added benefit to this sustainable practice, producers said cover crops helped increase corn yields by 3.66 bushels per acre and soybean harvests by 2.19 bushels per acre. This marked the third consecutive year of reported yield increases following a cover crop rotation.

  • Managed grazing. The basic version of this concept is also known as "rotational grazing," which simply means moving livestock from one pasture to another to avoid overuse of one site. This practice not only provides better forage for the animals, but also helps the most desirable grasses and plants recover more quickly between grazing cycles. Over time, this helps hold down the level of weeds and other less useful vegetation.

A more intricate approach is the use of a "grazing wedge," which is a visual tool that helps producers calculate the quantity and quality of forage in different grazing locations.

Grazing Wedge

As illustrated in the sample chart above, a producer regularly uses a tool (such as a plate meter) to estimate the level of forage density in each pasture. This data is then plotted across the chart, showing areas that are ideal for grazing based on forage density and height, versus pastures that are overgrazed or where the feedstock is too mature (and thus lower quality). A three-year study by the University of Missouri found that beef producers using the grazing wedge approach were able to sustain cow-calf nutrient requirements while also keeping pasture land in top condition for regrowth.

Unfortunately, managed grazing has been in decline, largely due to producers in recent years who converted pasture acreage to crop production. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the use of managed grazing fell from 389,000 farms to 2007 to 289,000 farms in 2012. Producers in just four states – Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island and Vermont – reported increased use of this sustainable practice.

Local marketing programs. In recent years, there has been a rising "buy local" trend among many consumers, which includes greater emphasis on selecting food grown close to home. According to the USDA, nearly 164,000 farms in 2012 were selling products directly to consumers through local stores, farmers' markets or school districts, or through community-supported agriculture programs that allow consumers to buy a "harvest share" of farm commodities. Those sales totaled an estimated $6.1 billion.   

The direct-to-consumer approach is a solid sustainability platform for smaller producers of fruits, vegetables and eggs, specialty products like honey or nuts, or meat and cheese producers where processing is handled locally. It reduces transportation, processing and marketing costs, while helping to forge a stronger connection between producers and the local non-farm community. It's also attractive to people who did not grow up on a farm, but want a tangible way to help support a more sustainable environment and food chain.

"Many people are attracted to the idea of sustainability, and alternative marketing systems, managed grazing or seasonal dairying are some ways they can get involved without necessarily having a family connection," Hogan said.

Like many other investments, sustainable practices often have start-up costs. To help lower those barriers, the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program offers a series of competitive grants. In SARE's North Central region, which comprises most of the AgriBank District, over $400,000 in farmer-rancher grants were disbursed this spring to 40 producers. Another $600,000 was allocated in partnership grants, shared between agriculture professionals and producers for specific rese​arch projects, and youth educators who deliver programming on sustainable agriculture. The next round of farmer-rancher grant proposals are due in early December.

Regardless of what sustainability path a producer chooses, Jones said the decision merits careful consideration and a long-term view.

"Becoming more sustainable doesn't mean you have to redo your operation overnight," Jones said. "Like any business, it involves making adjustments, so producers need to evaluate what activities and timeline would work best for them."

​​​SOURCES:

Molla, Rani "How Much of the World's Greenhouse-GasEmissions Come From Agriculture?" (September 29, 2014), The Wall Street Journal

"Land Use, Land Value and Tenure" (August 26,2015), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

"Summary Report: 2010 National ResourcesInventory" (September 2013), Natural Resources Conservation Service,Washington, DC, and Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, Iowa State University

"America's Diverse Family Farms, 2014 Edition"(December 2014), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

"2014-2015 Annual Report Cover Crop Survey" (July2015), Conservation Technology Information Center 

"Forage Quality Determined with Grazing Wedge,"(2014), North Central SARE Profile from the Field

"Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems"(January 2015), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service


​This article is part of the AgriBank AgriThough series. As part of Farm Credit, AgriBank supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services. Through AgriThought, they share the collective expertise we and affiliated Farm Credit Associations have cultivated from serving America's heartland.​​

 

 

December 15
​Farm Diversification Can Help Minimize Risk

When it comes to investing, most financial planners say diversification is the key to long-term success, largely because it avoids big bets on a small number of asset classes. But in some parts of the Midwest, many producers who bet heavily on certain crops or livestock when prices were high are now rethinking that approach.

Crop diversity chart.png"Given recent market conditions, many farmers are looking at their overall operations and seeking ways to minimize risk," said Chad Hart, a farm economist and crop markets specialist at Iowa State University. "That may include developing new or alternative enterprises to bring into the farm business or diversifying their income streams as a risk management device."

Farm diversification is becoming a hot topic, particularly in light of declining profitability. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this year's national net farm income will come in at just over $58 billion, a 36 percent decline from the agency's estimate of $91 billion for 2014. That's the lowest national net income forecast for producers since 2006. Meanwhile, the USDA forecast said livestock income will fall 9.1 percent on lower milk and hog prices, while crop receipts are expected to decline 6.2 percent due to surplus grain supplies causing sharp drops in corn, soybean and wheat prices.

For years, a variety of crops and livestock co-existed on many U.S. farms, creating an economic buffer against market downturns. But in the late 20th century, economies of scale began to chip away at this diversified model. For example, the actual number of U.S. hog farms shrunk by 70 percent over the past two decades while animal production rose 30 percent, as producers opted for larger, more specialized operations to maximize efficiency. While many smaller-scale beef and dairy producers have remained during that time period, the industry's highest concentrations are now in fed beef cattle operations of 1,000 animals or more and dairy businesses with 500 cows or more. Most of the latter operations are concentrated in the western United States, and they account for over 50 percent of total milk and dairy production.

On the crop side, overall diversity has been declining since the mid-1980s, particularly in the traditional "Corn Belt" region of the Midwest and portions of the mid-South.  

According to USDA, this loss of diversity has been driven by several forces, including genetic advances in corn and soybean varieties that allows those crops to thrive in a broader range of climates, as well as increased export demand for those commodities. As a result, many grasslands or otherwise-marginal acreage was converted to corn or soybean production, which reduced environmental diversity.

"Crop and livestock farming work really well together, and I think that's often a lost diversification opportunity," said Sam Arndorfer, a loan officer with Farm Credit Services of Mandan in North Dakota. "For example, if you're growing corn and then tilling to manage the residue, why not consider raising livestock that will manage that residue and also make some money for you?"

While it should go without saying that agriculture is a business, Hart from Iowa State University noted that a more diversified model runs counter to the high-specialization, high-volume approach employed by many producers in recent years. For that reason, farmers and ranchers need to carefully consider any diversification moves.

"You have to look at a full range of issues," he said. "For example, does a producer have the assets or environment for what they want to do? Do they have access to the right marketing opportunities? Ultimately, the key is to for producers to become diverse enough so that a downturn in any one area won't put them out of business."

To get started, producers should apply a SWAT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to their overall operation. This should address current and recent revenue and expenses, estimates for the 2016 year based on existing commodity prices and input costs, and a rough projection of any Farm Bill subsidy payments. Once that assessment is complete, look for diversification opportunities it might suggest, based on the farm's size, proximity to city or urban markets, and a producer's specific interests. Consider the following examples:

​​Extending the growing season. By using high tunnels and hoop houses, producers in the Midwest and Northern Plains can grow fruit and vegetable crops in the cold months, which can often be marketed directly to schools or local markets.

Leveraging creative solutions. In Iowa, Hart said a hog-farming family near two urban markets (Sioux City, Iowa and Omaha, Neb.) took an underused building and added some grow lights to convert it to herb production. By directly marketing the fresh herb products to farmers' markets and upscale restaurants in the region, the family's new venture is adding steady income to offset lower hog prices.

Adding alternative crops. Today, there are a wide variety of crop alte​rnatives to corn or soybeans, many of which can be planted in cooler weather and offer strong secondary benefits. For example, flaxseed is a cool-season alternative crop popular in baked goods, though it also can be used as a feed supplement for cattle and poultry. In addition, dry edible beans (such as navy, pinto or kidney beans) are widely marketable, and the crop also improves soil fertility by converting atmospheric nitrogen into a plant-usable form.

While diversification planning is important, Arndorfer cautioned it's not the only element required to help boost the odds of success.  

"Clearly, there needs to be a market for any new idea," he said. "But if a producer doesn't have personal drive or passion for that idea, I can almost guarantee it will not work."

Sources

"Farm Sector Profitability Expected to Decline in2015" (August 25, 2015), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

"Productivity Growth Slows for Specialized HogFinishing Operations" (February 3, 2014), U.S. Department of AgricultureEconomic Research Service

"Animal Production and Marketing Issues" (September 23, 2015), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

"Crop Species Diversity Changes in the United States,1978-2012" (August 26, 2015), PLOS ONE

"Extending the Growing Season: High Tunnels Use andFarm to School in the Upper Midwest" (April 2015), Institute forAgriculture and Trade Policy

This article is part of the AgriBank AgriThough series. As part of Farm Credit, AgriBank supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services. Through AgriThought, they share the collective expertise we and affiliated Farm Credit Associations have cultivated from serving America's heartland.​

 

 

November 30
Adam Kolb Named Rural Entrepreneur Semi-Finalist

AdamKolb.jpg

Adam Kolb of Cleveland, Wisconsin was selected as a semi-finalist of the 2016 Farm Bureau’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. As a semi-finalist he received $10,000 to invest in his operation, Kolb Farms, a diversified farming operation that includes grass fed beef marketed directly to consumers, custom calf raising, crop production and custom field services. It is a fifth generation family farm.

GreenStone financial services officer Laurie Schetter was in attendance at Adam’s check presentation in October. “Adam is very deserving of the award,” she said. “I was honored to be a part of the presentation and excited that such a worthy recipient was recognized.”

Read more about Adam and his award at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau website.

Pictured Left to Right: Adam Kolb; Bob Leege, Executive Director of Member Relations at Wisconsin Farm Bureau; Laurie Schetter, Financial Services Officer, GreenStone Farm Credit Services.



 

1 - 10Next