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November 17
Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan - Upcoming Business Workshop

To help cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders, the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan (FVC-MI) is hosting an upcoming business workshop​ on Dec. 8-9 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing. This program is just one of the many ways the organization is ensuring Michigan farmer veterans are given the best opportunity to become successful and sustainable within the agricultural community.​
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FVC-MI is dedicated to supporting the growth and success of Michigan's military veterans through agriculture. The organization aims to develop and administer programs specifically designed to meet the needs of farmer veterans in the state, and collaborates with veteran and agricultural organizations.

GreenStone's ongoing commitment to the vibrancy of rural communities includes serving young, beginning and small farmers, many of whom are returning military service members. We are proud to support indviduals who possess the unique skills and character needed to strengthen the agricultural industry and create sustainable food systems.

For more information on the business workshop and to register, click here: http://bit.ly/2hDZ8DZ​

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November 13
Your Voice Matters: Member Grown Outreach Program

In our previous blog post, we outlined the four focus areas GreenStone's outreach and engagement targets to support rural communities and agriculture.

As part of our Rural Community Engagement focus area, each year we will give YOU the opportunity to select the specific category GreenStone will concentrate additional efforts on through our ​new Member Grown Outreach program! ​

Act now: voting is open through Nov. 30! Visit your local branch and cast your ballot in person, or vote online at: http://bit.ly/17MemberGrownOutreach​.

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November 08
Serving Rural Communities and Agriculture: More Than Financing

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​GreenStone understands serving rural communities and agriculture means more than financing, and as such, our commitment extends beyond providing financial services. We work to support our communities and actively demonstrate our efforts through time, resources, and financial contributions.​

To fulfill our Farm Credit mission of sustaining the rural communities we serve, GreenStone’s outreach and engagement involvement targets four focus areas: 

  1. Agriculture Advocacy, Customer and Industry Relations, and Producer Leadership Development and Education 
    Industry support is an important part of our broader mission in rural America. We advocate for agriculture by connecting the value of farming and our customers to the non-farm public and key stakeholders, along with supporting causes that further develop relationships with our members.

  2. Young, Beginning, and Small Farmers
    By investing in projects and programs that help remove financial barriers and provide educational opportunities for those developing a career in the industry, and to those sustaining diversity through initiatives such as urban agriculture, we can assist the roles these individuals play in sustaining rural communities and agriculture.

  3. Youth Education and Agriculture Awareness
    We aim to help educate future generations and develop industry leaders in agriculture and rural communities through supporting youth educational programs, financial contributions, volunteer efforts, and financial resources and training programs.

  4. Rural Community Engagement
    To enhance and impact the quality of life in the rural communities we serve, GreenStone provides support to local and regional organizations whose efforts are aimed at building vibrant communities where we work and live in the following categories: health and wellness, hunger and nutrition, local disaster relief, sustainability and the environment, and human services. Through this focus area, we will partner with our members, and the public, to make a positive impact and fulfill our mission to service rural America through our new Member Grown Outreach program.

Being involved in the industry and our communities is a commitment we continue to make to the rural life we all value. Our hope is these investments will provide a meaningful difference in addressing the challenges you, our customers, face and improve the quality of life in your surrounding area.

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October 30
Measuring Operational Efficiencies

By: Jim Byars, vice president of commercial lending and Steve Zimmerman, senior tax accountant

​In challenging economic times, like those being experienced today, it is more important than ever for producers to monitor their operational efficiency by paying close attention to the imperative information that reveals the financial condition of your operation. 

For this, one of the simplest measurements to assess is your breakeven point when revenue fully covers costs. Most producers inherently sense whether they are breaking even or not by watching their working capital level and knowing whether they have enough money in the bank to pay all their bills each month. An actual assessment of costs and revenues will provide an even deeper insight. When the data shows that break-even is not being met, the producer knows it needs to reduce costs or increase revenues for the operation to be viable long-term. ​



Comparing your data to both prior performance and industry benchmarks also provides a degree of insight. For dairies, for example, this typically means analyzing three- to five-year trends in earnings, feed costs and labor cost, typically by hundredweight or cow. To compare performance with industry standards, multiple resources exist, such as the peer comparison information GreenStone Farm Credit Services has compiled, several accountancies provide relevant regional data across a broad number of producers, and universities also offer benchmarking data. It is important to be mindful when comparing your operation to other producers, though, since the type of operation and its associated costs can vary greatly. For example, a dairy that buys feed and replacement cows will have a different cost structure than one that raises its own replacement cows and has ample pastureland; a grain producer who rents land will have different costs than one who has purchased land; a larger operation of any type likely benefits from economies of scale, particularly regarding labor costs per unit. 

Another means to measure operational efficiency is analyzing your profit and loss (P&L) statement with accrual adjustment, which shows the sources of income and operating expenses. Comparing P&L statements over time reveals how the operation is trending, as does analyzing the largest several expenses in proportion to revenues. For example, if you run a dairy operation, feed purchases should total no more than one-third of revenue and labor no more than 10 percent of total revenue; for grain and similar operations, no more than 25 percent of revenue should go to inputs like seed and chemicals. 

At a deeper analytical level, a series of key financial ratios offers significant insight: divided into five categories, these ratios offer an objective assessment of an operation’s performance at a given point in time. 

Working Capital, the difference between current assets and current liabilities, is the main measurement of liquidity, and producers should seek a 2:1 ratio of assets to liabilities. Another liquidity measurement is the Working Capital Over Revenue ratio, with a goal of holding one-third of farm production value as current assets. If this level is not being achieved, the producer should find ways to increase inventories and reduce current liabilities, perhaps by working with your financing partner to consider options like restructuring debt to stretch payments over a longer time period. 

An operation’s solvency is measured through the Equity to Asset ratio, which measures how much equity, or net worth, a producer has in relation to assets. For every $100 in assets, an operation should have $50 in equity. A lower ratio often indicates the assets are borrowed against, and producers in this situation should likely focus on repaying debt or liquidating assets. 

Profitability measures include the Rate of Return on Farm Assets, which should be near to the interest rate earned on a typical savings account. In today’s low-interest rate environment, any rate greater than 4 percent is positive for the producer; if the percentage is less than this, the producer should focus on generating more profitability by increasing margins or selling off non-performing assets and either paying down debt or investing in assets that will generate more profitability. Another profitability measure is the Rate of Return on Farm Equity, more common for producers seeking investor money, but also providing decision-making support – if this rate is lower than desired, again the solution is to increase the profit margin and/or reduce the debt load. 

Two ratios serve to measure financial efficiency: the Asset Turnover Ratio and the Operating Expense Ratio. The former measures an asset’s ability to generate revenue, and the ideal is a 1:1 ratio in an asset’s first year, meaning that every dollar invested in the asset generates a dollar in revenue. This is extremely rare in agriculture, and a more realistic target for producers is a 30 or 40 cent return on each dollar invested; operational decisions such as renting land rather than purchasing it as an asset can improve this ratio if needed. The Operating Expense Ratio demonstrates operating expenses in relation to the revenue generated. If, for example, an operation generates $100 in revenue and only spends $10 on operating expenses, it has a 90 percent operating efficiency. For agriculture, a level of 65 – 75 percent is acceptable. If an operation’s ratio is not at this favorable level, the first solution is to reduce operating expenses, but if costs have been cut as far as possible, working to generate more revenue at the same cost level will be key, either by increasing productivity, marketing for a better price or selling more units. 

Repayment Capacity is a critical measurement for lenders, as it conveys a borrower’s ability to repay their loans. Typically, a 1:1 ratio is acceptable, meaning that the producer is generating exactly enough revenue to repay their debts; however, a better goal is ratio of 1.15 – 1.25, which indicates that the producer is generating excess revenue that can be added to working capital or invested in strong performing assets. 

As you know, using financial data to measure operating efficiency is complex, and can seem overwhelming to agricultural producers who much prefer managing and caring for their farms and herds. However, the financial report card all of this data provides can help you make wiser operational decisions. 

Reviewing your critical financial data is an ongoing responsibility for sound operational management. At GreenStone, we typically sit down with our customers quarterly or even monthly, depending on the type of operation. During these meetings, our experienced staff drill down on the relevant data points to gain and share a comprehensive understanding of the financial health of the operation, identifying strengths and weaknesses, where improvements need to be made, and in some cases recommending other professionals to assist in making the right decisions to allow your operation to thrive.


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October 25
Documents for Smooth Loan Processing

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For most people, assuming a home mortgage or refinancing an existing home involves a number of important documents and information. Ensuring the purchase process goes smoothly requires an involved and informed lender prepared to work with you through the transaction. The first step is having the right forms ready to go.  Check out the v-blog below to see the list of documents needed for a smooth loan process. For an initial loan consultation and to begin preparing your documents, contact your local GreenStone branch or simply submit your loan application online at greenstonefcs.com.​​

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October 06
What 4-H means to me: Rebecca Fischer

​In the spirit of National 4-H week, we have asked some GreenStone team members to share their experience in 4-H, either as a member, a parent or a volunteer. As you read in their stories this week, it is evident 4-H has a positive impact on many people in many different ways!

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Growing up, I never belonged to a 4-H club, I did however go to school with several good friends that belonged to different clubs in my community and I found the whole experience to be very interesting. When I met my husband, he was a dairy farmer and although he was never involved in 4-H directly, he helped out a local club when it came time for the county fair, through different projects and setting things up for animals to be shown.

Fast forward a few years after getting married and bringing two children into the world, one day my daughter, Rachel, came home with a sheet of paper about a “Fun Day” being offered by our local county’s 4-H Leaders Council. My daughter was very excited about this and wanted to go and see what it was all about. My son, Jacob, at the time was excited about the idea too, but was unsure that he was ready to take the leap of joining in on a group activity. I will never forget that day as long as I live, both of my children were so very excited about the projects and activities that 4-H had to offer, and they were super excited to be getting started as Cloverbuds.  

We signed up for our local club that very day and almost 8 years later we have never looked back. My children Rachel and Jacob both belong to the Sunset Lake club and we have the bragging rights of being one of the largest in our county. Over the years, I have witnessed my children participate in many activities with this club, they have flourished as young people, and have learned countless life skills as a result of being members. They have taken several projects to our county fair, and in every one of those there was a lesson learned. This group has built up their self-esteem and confidence more than I ever could as a parent and for that I will forever be grateful.  ​

As the mother of these two, I am also currently a leader for our club as well as holding a seat on the 4-H Leaders’ Council. I have very much enjoyed my direct experience and watching all of these young people discover talents they maybe didn’t even realize they possessed. I enjoy being a leader because it gives me the opportunity to be a part of the planning process, and also a chance to work with the youth to come up with fun activities to keep our members' interest.  

Being part of the Leaders’ Council has also been a priceless experience for me, this is where I have really gained knowledge of 4-H and the awesome opportunities it offers to young people. The chance to travel, explore, and experience life first-hand. I have sat in on interviews with the teens and “tweens” of 4-H and I am truly amazed at the confidence and self-esteem these young people have to stand in front of a panel of judges and carry on great conversations about why they would be right for the trip or award that they have applied for.  

The best part of 4-H is the memories made and the experiences gained from it. This was printed on the back of a t-shirt that was given to my son this year and it pretty accurately sums up my feelings:

“4-H is about more than the ribbons and awards, it’s about the people, the experiences, the life-long skills, the memories, the county fair. It’s about being a role model, giving back, and making the best better.” 

Rebecca and her family are active with the Calumet County 4-H program. She is a senior crop insurance technician at the GreenStone branch in Little Chute.​

October 05
 What 4-H Means to Me: Cynthia Cole

​In the spirit of National 4-H week, we have asked some GreenStone team members to share their experience in 4-H, either as a member, a parent or a volunteer. As you will read in their stories this week, it is evident 4-H has a positive impact on many people in many different ways!

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Having been a 4-H member as a youth, I personally experienced the lifelong values it can offer. The one thing that I value the most from my years of 4-H, is the relationships I developed with other youth, and the difference adults can make in your life. To this day, I think of those lifelong relationships as my 4-H family.  I was able to meet people from all across my county, and I gained respect of other adults.

Through my 4-H experience, I learned to be competitive and strive to be better. Winning is not always the answer, however the way you win or lose makes a difference. As a 4-H youth, your project is your experience and from that project you are motivated to be productive and increase your skills.

I was a broken child when I lost my mother at the age of 10 and my 12 year-old brother two months later.  It was my 4-H family that stepped in and showed me love, compassion, self-worth, and how to make the best out of life. I am sure several of the 4-H'ers that reached out didn’t even know me or the challenges I was dealing with.  

4-H taught me, as I teach today, to make the experience fun while learning, and from that learning you will increase your ability to become a better person. As an adult leader I have a motto: Be a volunteer, set an example, respect others because you never know what little set of eyes are watching you, and the life-long impact you will make in a youth’s life.

Cynthia is a past member and current volunteer with the Ionia County 4-H. She is a senior financial services officer at the GreenStone Ionia branch.

October 04
What 4-H means to me: Kelsey Maye

​In the spirit of National 4-H week, we have asked some GreenStone team members to share their experience in 4-H, either as a member, a parent or a volunteer. As you will read in their stories this week, it is evident 4-H has a positive impact on many people in many different ways!

Kelsey Mays.jpgFrom the time I can recall, 4-H has always been a part of my family’s life. We had a swine and sheep operation for many years. By the time I was about 7 years old, our family had sold the pigs and continued raising crossbred sheep. Throughout my 4-H career, I exhibited sheep, swine, beef and goats. I showed at the county, state and national level. 

Family is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my long career in 4-H. We did it all as a family. It brought our family very close by being a part of 4-H. Any success we had was made by a family effort and not just an individual.  

Personally, it taught me failure. It taught me that you will not win every time you step into the show ring. There will be some judges that may move your animal to the top of the class and some that just may not prefer your animal that day. The same goes in life. One day you could walk into a job interview and perform the best you could and it may just not be the right fit for you. 4-H taught me how to deal with that failure. How to keep going, push through and to keep striving to be better.  With failure comes character development.

At a young age, 4-H molds character like no other organization that I have been a part of. It teaches good ethics and morals, and I will carry these lessons with me for the rest of my life.

Being a part of 4-H created a deep-rooted importance for agriculture in my life. Farmers are what feed this world. I knew that I wanted to be a part of agriculture in some way, but I didn’t know what that meant until after I graduated college and had to opportunity to work with farmers every day. I also think that desire stems from the people that are involved in supporting 4-H. I looked up to all the volunteers that give countless hours to making the county fairs, state shows and national shows run smoothly. Now I see the importance of giving back to the youth. Someday my husband and I will have children that will hopefully be a part of 4-H and will grow up knowing the importance of something bigger than themselves. 

Kelsey grew up in Branch County and is currently a financial service officer in Hillsdale, serving Hillsdale and Branch County.

October 03
What 4-H Means to Me: Kevin Silverthorn

​In the spirit of National 4-H week, we have asked some GreenStone team members to share their experience in 4-H, either as a member, a parent or a volunteer. As you will read in their stories this week, it is evident 4-H has a positive impact on many people in many different ways!

SIlverthorn.jpgEffective and timeless, with a simple mission to help make the world a better place. Teaching practical skills, and ultimately setting the stage for success in the lives of many. In a general sense, that’s what    4-H is, but that’s only the beginning of what it means to me. I carry many fond memories from my time being involved in 4-H. Dating back as far as I can remember, spending time at my local 4-H youth livestock auction. On what always seemed to be the hottest week of the summer, I would be propped up on my father’s knee hoping to bid on my favorite hog or steer. As soon as I became eligible as a youngster myself, I was active in cloverbuds growing garden vegetables.

My development as a 4-H'er continued when it became my turn to be in the sale ring with my 4-H swine project. These years shaped my life and who I turned out to be. Some of the things I learned such as responsibility, hard work, and patience are still at the forefront of my day-to-day activities as an adult. A number of years later, I was furthering my education at Michigan State University where I found myself tied to the     4-H community once again. This time as an educator, interning for MSU Extension as a 4-H and youth development specialist, recalling some of the things I’ve learned and relaying them to others.

As I am able to reflect on my 4-H experiences, it becomes glaringly obvious to me that 4-H means much more to me than others may anticipate. It means being a part of something with a goal of not just benefiting yourself, but the communities we live in. I often think that one of the greatest attributes of 4-H is that it always has a localized feel, yet when you sit back and think about how integrated it is, in so many communities across the nation, it truly is a national organization. 

With that being said, it’s one of the greatest things that connects so many people no matter where you are, and is one thing that will always stick with me. Ultimately, 4-H to me is an organization that epitomizes practicality through hands-on experiences in the real world, and it is those very experiences that help lead the world we live in today and into the future.​

Kevin grew up in St. Clair County, Michigan and is currently a financial services officer in the GreenStone Concord Branch.​


October 02
What 4-H Means to Me: Miranda DeVries

In the spirit of National 4-H week, we have asked some GreenStone team members to share their experience in 4-H, either as a member, a parent or a volunteer. As you will read in their stories this week, it is evident 4-H has a positive impact on many people in many different ways!​

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​Some things that immediately come to mind when I think of 4-H are: Learning new skills (life, leadership, etc.) and building confidence in these skills, realizing the importance of team work, becoming a more responsible individual, facing challenges and problem solving, gaining new experiences and opportunities, making new friends and memories, and of course - fair time!

I started 4-H relatively young-probably around the age of 7. Throughout my years, I was a member of three different clubs spending a couple of years in arts and crafts where we presented our entries at the local fair for judging; a couple years in sewing, where we made our own clothing then participated in fashion shows; and many years in a cooking club, also presenting at the fair for judging. Some of my fondest memories from 4-H were presenting my cooking dish to the judges during the fair, in hopes of earning a blue ribbon!

Another great memory I have from 4-H was attending Exploration Days on the campus of Michigan State University. This event is where 4-H kids from all over Michigan would come and stay a few days in the dorms during the summer and attend all sorts of hands-on learning classes. There was everything from sign language, line dancing, babysitting, farm/ag classes, to business classes, money management, and recreational sports classes.  Members from all backgrounds would eat in the cafeteria dorms, and attend classes similar to how college students do. This was my first time being away from home for an extended period of time with limited adult supervision, where I felt freedom to make my own decisions.  It was a pretty fun experience for my age!

4-H is a great way to get kids and teens involved in their local communities, either from an agriculture perspective such as raising cows, pigs, poultry, etc., or from one of the many other perspectives 4-H clubs offer such as cooking, woodworking, and photography.  4-H is not just about producing a product that will be judged at a local fair. It’s about the time and effort kids put into these projects and the lessons and experiences they gain along the way in the process.  Ask any 4-H kid what their favorite time of the year is however, and chances are their answer will be “fair time!” Even with the long hours and hot, exhausting days that this time frame brings, the fair (and 4-H in general) bring a sense of accomplishment and encouragement for those who participate.  

Miranda is from Livingston County, and works at the GreenStone East Lansing office in the Information Systems Department. 


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