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April 21
Landscaping Your New Construction

The planning process for building your new home started months ago with finding the perfect land and then the perfect blueprint… now your house is move-in ready and the only thing left to do is unpack and enjoy. 

Once you’ve settled in and had some time to adjust to your new home, your thoughts will naturally turn to all the finishing touches that make a house a home – and during this time of year, that means patio projects, flowers and landscape, and gardening. 

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Before you launch into a grand scale outdoor plan for your new home, take a moment to read over these three points first. 

1. Do Your Research

Before you plant that first peony, stop to think about the scale of your landscape and prioritize your needs and wants. Write a list of what you would ideally like to have and then ask yourself an important question. Do you love to get your hands dirty outside or are you more of a low yard maintenance type? Based on that answer, do some research on the care needed for the specific types of flowers and shrubs you’d like to include in your home’s landscape. If your idea of a perfect Saturday includes weeding, pruning and watering, then the sky is the limit. If not, consider an option that will require only basic seasonal maintenance. 

2. Prepare and Plant 

Once you have identified the types of plants that work for your local climate, how many plants you will need and where to put them, the real work starts. Prepare your flower beds by making sure the soil is the perfect growing environment for your chosen foliage. Most garden supply centers have soil test kits to easily determine the quality of your soil. Most likely, your new beds are going to need some help in order to be hospitable to plant life. One solution may be to add compost to enrich the soil; bagged cow manure is an easy option to get started. After mixing it well into the soil and getting your plants in the ground, top with mulch to maintain moisture and minimize weeds. 

3. Consider the Future

It will be tempting to go all out that first spring season in your new home, but take a few steps back before you do and consider your long term needs. This will help you make good decisions on placement, should you eventually decide to expand the deck, add a play area for the kids, build a pole barn, or achieve your dream vegetable garden. 


 

April 11
GreenStone Hosts Lunch and Learn Event with ACRE AgTech

​GreenStone was pleased to host members of the ACRE AgTech team at our Grand Rapids branch on March 28 for a lunch and learn event. Paul Sachs, executive director, and Doug Huesdash, business development, presented on the organization’s purpose and who they can help.




ACRE connects entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed, furthering the cultivation of emerging technologies for today’s agricultural economy, and leveraging West Michigan’s legacy as one of the most productive agriculture regions in the United States.

GreenStone’s branch team learned more about the organization’s specialization in helping farmers, entrepreneurs and existing businesses commercialize, license, or sell their ag-technology inventions. The types of hands-on, customized business startup services provided include, but are not limited to: validating business concepts; assessing intellectual property; confirming product engineering; preparing business plans and financial pro forma documents; developing markets and distribution channels for products; helping to obtain business financing; and connecting clients with manufacturing and agri-business experts to assist with prototyping and product testing.

GreenStone is proud to partner with such an organization dedicated to advancing agriculture! To learn more, visit ACRE’s website at www.acreagtech.com.

April 11
Reflecting on the WPS Farm Show

By Jeanie Anello​

Like many GreenStone employees, I grew up on a family-owned dairy farm. My parents owned 200 acres and milked about 100 cows, which was an average-sized farm for our area at the time. Our farm consisted of a big red barn with three traditional silos surrounded by acres of green cow and horse pasture – the type of idyllic setting many may still picture when they think of a farm.  I have many fond memories of helping with farm chores such as bottle-feeding newborn calves and helping with hay baling.

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After college I moved away from the farm to live and work in the “big city” for many years. My parents still live on the farm where I grew up, but their place is now just a hobby farm. Thus, I had been removed from production agriculture for quite some time. I recently joined GreenStone as the marketing manager, and while marketing is very familiar to me, I am quickly becoming reacquainted with the agricultural industry. 

After attending the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Farm Show recently, I am amazed at how much the farming industry has changed! From what I have seen, the most significant change is the advanced technology now prevalent in the industry. Everything from feeding cattle to cleaning pens to planting and harvesting crops now includes power equipment. Tractors are GPS-driven – and driverless tractors will likely be a reality in the next few years. Bales are less likely to be hand stacked on wagons anymore, more typically managed with forklifts or tractors. There’s no longer a need for a farm kid to deliver a phone message to dad out in the field; in fact, farmers are super-users of cell phone and mobile technology, including ag-related apps. The traditional red wooden barns have aged, and the new barns are built with focus on improved ventilation, bedding and feeding advancements for better animal health and comfort.

A lot has changed in farming in the past couple decades, but some things have stayed the same. The young FFA members at the farm show still appeared to be as enthusiastic, energetic and optimistic as I recalled from my county fair days (with the addition of ever-present cell phones for social media sharing, of course)! Many of the farmer conversations I overheard still centered around the weather, commodity prices, animal husbandry, and what the neighbors are up to – much like during my childhood. A great growing season and favorable weather are still reasons to rejoice, while severe weather and market fluctuations are still reasons to worry.

Farms are still family businesses and kids probably still have daily chores, although I wonder if robotic milking machines have added some flexibility to their social schedules.  And I’m guessing (hoping!) these kids still deliver snacks to their dads in the field sometimes – although their delivery vehicle is likely a quad or a Gator, and not a stubborn Shetland pony!

Jeanie Anello is the marketing manager at GreenStone Farm Credit Services.


April 10
As Commodity Prices Decline, How Does this Downturn Stack Up?

​Paul Anderson, executive vice president and chief credit officer, recently spoke with Ag Leaders of Michigan​ about the current agricultural economic downturn.

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Anderson says that while commodity prices are low, what we are seeing is actually a return to more normalized prices. "The reality is that we have just gone from abnormal record profitability back to normal profitability," he said.

March 16
Helpful Tools for Stress Management

​Farming ranks as one of the top 10 most stressful occupations in the United States. Each day, farm families face a variety of stressors, such as factors vastly outside of their control, including weather, market prices, livestock disease and equipment failures. While it can be easy to allow these to become overwhelming, it is important to remember that having the right mindset can mean the difference between debilitating stress and productive resiliency. 

Here are three tips to help keep stress in check: 

​1. Use Self-Talk

The body hears what the mind thinks, so choose your thoughts with purpose. Tell yourself that you can overcome any challenge. You can adapt. You have come through rough times before, and you can do it again. You cannot always avoid difficult situations, but you can choose the thoughts you have when experiencing stress. Try choosing three words to repeat to yourself when you want to maintain a positive mindset, for example: calm, capable and controlled. 

2. Use Your Breath

When faced with a challenge, first use your breath. Deep breathing calms the mind and can help you focus. It can also reduce chronic pain and improve sleep. Try breathing deeply five times, releasing the air slowly. Combine deep breathing with positive self-talk to calm your stress and help you stay on task.

3. Use Acceptance 

When things are beyond your control, the most productive step you can take is to accept it. Making acceptance part of your mindset can save you time and energy by letting you focus on the solution instead of getting frustrated by the problem. Try making the word “accept” part of your self-talk and using deep breathing as a time to pause, accept what is and begin problem solving.

Source: Michigan State University Extension ​


March 15
Jump Start Your Country Living Loan!

​Applying online with GreenStone is now more convenient than ever! When you are ready to live the country life in Michigan or northeast Wisconsin, apply for a GreenStone loan right from the comfort of your home! 


As a new feature of our secure portal, My Access, GreenStone’s loan application is an easy and safe way to jump start the country living loan process. Using our online loan application, you can apply for financing for country homes, recreational and vacant land, new construction and home sites!

You’ll be guided through a step-by-step process, starting with a full explanation of the application process. 

Visit www.greenstonefcs.com/apply to learn more, and get started!

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March 15
Organizing Your Farm Finances: Trends and Operating Cycles

​This is the second post in a two-part series​ to help producers create useful financial reports for their farming operations. In part one, we discussed the three key financial reports farmers need to make informed decisions on the farm.



Organizing Your Farm Finances: Trends and Operating Cycles


By Tamara Baker

A single report yields insight into the current state of your business, but comparing your reports over time provides additional value. On the balance sheet, look at your working capital compared to the last period you reported. If it has gone down, is it because you have drawn down your inventory, a finite resource? 

On the income and expense report, has income dropped due to lower commodity prices? On the projection report, is your anticipated income sufficient to cover your costs, including your living expenses? In each of these scenarios, you may need to secure a loan to bridge the gap until profitability returns and working capital can rebuild.

Align Reports with Operating Cycle

How often these financial reports are generated will depend on the type of farm operation. With one production cycle, annually is likely sufficient. A producer with two crop cycles should create reports twice a year; a year-round operation like a dairy, which has monthly income, inventory turnover, and expenses, would ideally review financial reports each month.

This can be challenging, as producers are often focused on what is happening on their operation every day. However, spending a little time reviewing financials can help identify issues and help a farmer more quickly develop plans to manage through them. 

At the end of the cycle, it is also important to compare the actual results in production, income, and expenses to the projections, and make appropriate adjustments so the projection for the next cycle more accurately reflects reality, and your plans can be built on a stronger foundation.

When it is Time for a Loan?

We anticipate low commodity and protein prices will continue in the near future, at a time when input costs are still high and labor costs may be increasing. This is putting a strain on farm incomes across the nation. As inventories are depleted, working capital levels can be expected to drop, which may lead more producers to seek financing. Accurate and complete financial reports are a necessity when applying for a loan. They allow the lender to have full understanding of an operation and adequately assess the benefits and risks of approving the loan, so both the lender and borrower make good financial decisions. While financial intuitions are in the business to lending, it is equally a business of relationships built on trust and mutual respect. It is important that lenders work with each client individually to develop a plan that works for them and their business. 

At GreenStone Farm Credit Services, where our borrowers are also our owners, we take a longer-term view toward supporting our customers’ success while also making decisions that will keep our borrowers and our institution financially healthy. Financial reports are the key for us to make those wise decisions to protect all of our cooperative members.

Tamara Baker is a Senior Credit Analyst at GreenStone Farm Credit Services.


March 13
Organizing Your Farm Finances: Three Key Financial Reports

​This is the first of a two-part series to help producers create useful financial reports for their farming operations. 


Organizing Your Farm Finances: Three Key Financial Reports


By Tamara Baker

Financial reports are often seen by farmers as a burden, required by lenders and other strategic partners but less important than actually running their operations. 

These three key reports, individually and in concert, can help guide short- and long-term decision making, and help target how to most effectively spend resources.

1. The balance sheet shows assets, liabilities and equity. Assets include the current market value of what you own, including current assets like inventory and cash, and long-term assets like facilities and land. Liabilities are what you owe, from current liabilities like loan payments and taxes, to long-term liabilities such as mortgages. Equity is your ownership of the business. One of the most important line items on the balance sheet is working capital, which is the difference between total current assets and total current liabilities. Effectively, working capital is the money you have available to spend; it is what carries you from planting to sale, and allows you to keep your operation going when margins are low.

2. The income and expense report shows your net income after debt servicing, detailing your earnings and operating expenses such as sales of inventories as income, and input costs as expenses. Income and expenses can be reported on a cash basis, when money actually changes hands, or on an accrual basis, when sales and purchase cmmitments have been made. Most producers report on a cash basis, however lenders typically prefer reviewing financials on an accrual basis as presenting a more accurate and complete assessment.

3. The projection report shows what you expect to produce in the coming year, based on the number of acres being farmed or the number of head being milked or raised. This is a best-guess calculation comprised from past performance, typically a five-year average, and adjusted for current market prices and costs. In short, the projection allows a producer to estimate their margin after their loan payments, foresee whether it is going to be a profitable year or not, and make adjustments to limit loss or achieve profitability.

Together, these three reports can provide guidance when making business decisions. They can also be immensely valuable to producers by illustrating how an operation is performing and drive informed business decisions for the future. 

Reports like these are invaluable for our lending team at GreenStone Farm Credit Services. They help us work with customers, as partners in business, to tailor our services based on individual and unique needs.

In part two of this series​, we’ll share information on tracking and interpreting financial trends from these key reports.

Tamara Baker is a Senior Credit Analyst at GreenStone Farm Credit Services.


February 13
GreenStone to Host Home Construction Seminars

​When it comes to financing the construction of a new home, you may have a lot of questions. The experts at GreenStone can help with the answers at one of our upcoming home construction seminars​ being offered throughout Michigan next month.


The seminars will cover a range of topics including: 

  • Determining which selections will add value to your home
  • Considerations for do-it-yourself or hiring a contractor
  • Financing options for your project

See below for a list of dates and locations, and register to attend online!

Mid-Michigan

Mt. Pleasant
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
1075 S. Mission St, Mt Pleasant MI 
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

St. Johns
AgroLiquid
3055 W M-21, St Johns MI 
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

Sunfield
Centennial Acres Golf and Banquet Center
12485 Dow Rd, Sunfield MI
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

East Lansing
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
3515 West Rd, East Lansing MI
Thursday, March 16 at 7:00 pm

Southeast Michigan

Adrian
Stone's Cafe & Catering
1360 W Beecher Rd, Adrian MI
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

Ann Arbor
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
7530 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor MI
Thursday, March 16 at 6:00 pm

Concord
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
100 Spring Street, Concord, MI  
Thursday, March 16 at 6:00 pm

East Michigan and Thumb

Lapeer
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
455 Lake Nepessing Rd, Lapeer MI
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

Bad Axe
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
749 S. Van Dyke Rd, Bad Axe MI
Wednesday, March 15 at 6:30 pm

West Michigan

Grand Rapids
Crossroads Conference Center
6569 Clay Avenue SW, Grand Rapids MI
Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00 pm

Northern Michigan

Traverse City
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
3491 Hartman Rd. Suite A, Traverse City, MI 
Tuesday, March 14, 12:00 pm - 1:30pm




February 08
GreenStone Scholarship Deadline Fast Approaching

Incoming college freshmen pursing an agriculture-related degree can earn scholarships from GreenStone Farm Credit Services. Students in four-year programs can earn $2,000 scholarships, while those in two-year programs can earn $1,000 awards.

To qualify, applicants must reside within GreenStone's territory, which includes Michigan and select counties in northeastern Wisconsin; must be a full-time high school graduating senior; have at least a 3.0 grade point average; and plan to study an agriculture-related field. In addition, applicants should demonstrate participation and leadership in school, community and agricultural activities. Complete details are available within the scholarship application: http://bit.ly/17GreenStoneScholarship.

Applications must be postmarked by Feb. 27, and arrive at GreenStone’s corporate office in East Lansing no later than March 6. Payment will be made after GreenStone receives a transcript identifying a successful completion of the first semester.

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