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July 16
Dollars and Sense: Financial Help for Young, Beginning and Small Farms

As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News

By: Tim McTigue

With the significant capital costs, starting a career in farming can be challenging.  Beyond the expense of acquiring the land and equipment, the cost of operating a farm until harvest can be overwhelming.  For these reasons, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) created the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program.  The program helps provide young farmers with the means to start a career in production agriculture.

If you are a farmer, producer or harvester of agricultural products and fall under one of the categories below, you may be eligible for this program:

  • Young – 35 year of age or younger
  • Beginning – 10 years or less owning a farm
  • Small – generating less than $250,000 in annual gross sales

Either directly through FSA or through agriculture lenders like GreenStone Farm Credit Services, young, beginning and small farmers are able to secure financing with flexible underwriting standards on agricultural loans.  The fees are typically more favorable and the advance rates on collateral are more aggressive.  The loans can be used for equipment, operating expenses and land.  The lender works cooperatively with FSA to help the borrower start out on sound footing.

FSA also has special loan programs to assist socially disadvantaged (SDA) and beginning farmers to purchase farms with a down payment as low as 5 percent.  FSA will typically lend up to 45 percent of the lower of the purchase price or appraised value of the farm – not to exceed $300,000.  The remaining balance may be obtained from an agriculture lender that will work with FSA to secure the loan.  The amortization of the farm loan is typically for 30 years and the rate is usually locked in for the full duration of the loan.

For more information on the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program or other FSA programs, you can call your local FSA office, visit their website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/, or speak with your local lender like GreenStone.

About the author:

Tim McTigue is a regional vice president of sales and customer relations based in GreenStone's Berrien Springs branch.

July 10
Intern Spotlight: Juana Lopez

​My family and I came to the U.S. in search of better opportunities, just like any other immigrant. Although I was only a child, I had many dreams that I wanted to accomplish. I did not realize the path to achieve my goals would be extremely tough and sometimes it seemed as though the journey would be impossible. Without the assistance of the Michigan State University College (MSU) Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), I would not be where I am today.

CAMP is a federally funded program that helps students from migrant and seasonal farm working background to succeed in their first year of college. Every year at MSU, CAMP recruits approximately 60 students and provides support to complete their respective degree. For the first year, CAMP supports the students with all of their financial and emotional needs. One of the biggest advantages of this program is they are able to facilitate in-state tuition for their out-of-state students. A migrant background does not allow one to have a settled home because constant travel to various states for their parents’ work is necessary. For this reason, CAMP students are offered the in-state tuition rate.

Before I was accepted into the program, my family and I used to migrate every year from Florida to North Carolina and Michigan for the harvest of blueberries and strawberries. With my background qualifying me for the CAMP program,  all my expenses from tuition to books were paid for during my first year at MSU and the assistance did not stop there. Due to my GPA status, I was rewarded with a stipend at end of my first and second semesters and I also received assistance with books and advice whenever I needed it after the completion of my freshman year. In addition, even though I am about to graduate, CAMP is still helping with my search for internships and jobs.

I learned about the internship opportunities at GreenStone through one of my CAMP mentors, Rudy Ramos. He encouraged me to apply for the Training and Development intern position that was available and I am glad I did! So far, this experience has given me the chance to meet many great people and also learn about the other opportunities available within the Farm Credit System. Also through this internship, I have been exposed to all the positive effects farm credit institutions have on agriculture and those who depend on it for a living.

About the author:

Juana Lopez is a training and development intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

July 08
Make Way for the Youth Moo-vement!

​By: Yvonne Fleis

Summertime in northern Mich. means sun, fun at the lake and of course the annual fair. Anytime now, we will begin hearing the jingle “Going to the fair, going to the fair, going to the Northwestern Michigan Fair!” signaling that it is once again time for our fair! While the 4-H kids are training with their livestock projects, GreenStone is planning the second annual Youth Moo-vement!

GreenStone’s Traverse City location has decided to take on a role in the surrounding communities to raise agriculture awareness among the youth by getting involved in the local fairs. 2013 marked our first Youth Moo-vement event with the Northwestern Michigan Fair. The contest required entrants to submit a short essay discussing one of the following topics:

  1. How has 4-H impacted your life?
  2. What have you learned from raising a project animal?
  3. What does agriculture mean to you and why did you choose to get involved in agriculture?

Participating 4-H students have the chance to win a junior beer steer, which would be brought back to the fair the following year as the project entry. The number of quality essays we received was incredible; some went the extra mile to include pictures and even a video submission! The essays were extremely well done and at the 2013 4-H awards banquet, we decided to give out two awards to the deserving entries. First place went to the junior beef (which will be brought back to the 2014 fair) and second place received $200 to go towards the participant’s 2014 project animal. Throughout this past year, we have received regular updates from the first place winner to show the progress with her steer. We are excited to see her steer - Boo - compete in market and showmanship in the 2014 Northwestern Michigan Fair!

So whether you are looking for an eventful day out with the family, an elephant ear or just a ride on the Ferris wheel, visit your local fair. Be sure to ask the 4-H students to tell you about their projects. I think it is safe to say they will be happy to chat about their experience, and maybe even educate you on the 4-H program, their steer or the ag industry!

About the author:

Yvonne Fleis is a tax accountant in GreenStone's Traverse City branch.

July 02
Dollars and Sense: Estate and Succession Planning

​As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News

By: Kelly Tobin

There are many reasons for business owners to develop estate and succession plans. A good plan will allow for competent asset management if the business owner should become incapacitated or die by outlining the manner and timing of asset distributions, this will provide a smooth transfer of assets, manage income and estate taxes, educate the business owner’s beneficiaries, and much more.

It is natural to take life for granted without taking time to think about the possibility of death or becoming incapacitated. Nevertheless, you owe it to yourself and your family to plan how your property will be used after your death. A good plan will answer the following questions:

  • Who will care for your minor children or aging parents?
  • Will the family business continue?
  • If you own real estate, does your family wish to keep it and will they have the financial resources to do so?
  • Will your spouse be able to live comfortably after your death?
  • Will estate taxes consume your family’s security?
  • Are there other federal, state, or local taxes, or other expenses, that should concern you

Estate and succession planning is a set of steps for effective management, enjoyment, and disposition of your property at the least possible cost, both in life and at death. Making a will is a crucial part, but the planning doesn’t stop there. It involves a review of your property ownership, insurance needs and your family business structure. The planning task can be simplified into five basic steps:

  1. Begin the dialogue with your beneficiaries
  2. Develop your objectives
  3. Compile information
  4. Seek professional advice necessary to implement a plan
  5. Update documents as situations change

During this process, it is common to worry that professional advice will be too costly. However, by taking initiative on the first three steps in this process prior to the first meeting with your chosen professionals, you can reduce the expense. Time is valuable for attorneys, tax professionals, and other experts needed to develop a successful plan. Conduct family discussions, set clear objectives, and compile information these professionals will need before employing them.

Many estate and succession plans never get written because death is a sensitive subject. Another problem involves the dynamics of family businesses. Nurturing family values often conflict with the hard decisions necessary to operate a successful business, such as selecting which child will be the future financial manager of the business. Using a third-party consultant to identify and document the skills of each child can mitigate this issue. A good way to start dialogue is to have the entire family attend a community estate and succession planning seminar.

An estate and succession plan should evaluate the need to form a living trust, which will avoid probate court and keep the transfer of assets a private matter since probate estates are public information. The type of entities used to operate the business is also an important issue. The attributes of partnerships, LLC’s, corporations and trusts need to be evaluated to determine the best entities to accomplish your objectives. Selling and/or gifting strategies also need to be considered to ensure the senior generation has a comfortable retirement and the new generation has the resources necessary to continue operating a successful business.

Many people understand the importance of a good estate and succession plan. Getting started is the hardest, yet most important step, so do not procrastinate. Do yourself a favor and get started now!

About the Author:

Kelly Tobin is a senior tax accountant/tax services product manager in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

June 30
Spending Time on the Shores of Lake Michigan

By: Luke Bakker

​Recently, I had the opportunity to experience one of Michigan’s greatest resources on the shores of South Haven while fishing on Lake Michigan with Michigan Out of Doors (MOOD) TV. The fishing was superb with both Lake Trout and King Salmon biting relentlessly.

The successful fishing, excellent company of GreenStone customers and staff, along with MOOD host Jimmy Gretzinger, made for an enjoyable day. Our time on the water was filled with networking, exchanging stories and swapping fish tales, which made the experience pretty hard to beat!

Everyone on the boat, including our Captain, was extremely interested in learning how GreenStone serves the agriculture industry and our customers. I always find it exciting to share with others the products and services GreenStone provides and I am honored to be part of such an important industry.

One of the things I enjoy most about working in agriculture is helping my customers achieve success. By working together closely, I am able to provide advice and feedback on important business decisions that have an effect on their overall operation. Whenever working with a customer, I always put the needs of their family and business first and enjoy watching them reach the goals they have set for themselves.

The Michigan out of Doors episode can be view following this link:

About the Author:

Luke Bakker is a financial services officer in GreenStone's Grand Rapids branch.

June 19
Getting Involved: Family Fun at the Farm

By: Melissa Humphrey

I receive great joy from being able to bring people from urban areas together with agriculture and expose them to things they would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience; it is a remarkable feeling. I think it is extremely valuable to show these individuals that farmers care about the land, environment and the safety of the food they produce. Recently, Clinton County, in partnership with Ionia County, hosted the third annual Family Fun at the Farm event at two local farms, Cook Dairy and Sonrise Farms, which I am heavily involved in.

Throughout the year, I work to coordinate all aspects of the event, which includes gathering more than 180 volunteers it takes to have everything run smoothly. One of my favorite things about Family Fun at the Farm is, through generous donations, we are able to offer it completely free to the general public. The day includes everything from a delicious lunch of hot dogs, chips and ice cream to activities such as face painting, bounce houses and so much more.  Watching children’s faces light up as they feed a baby calf a bottle, see cows being milked or have the opportunity to make their own butter, makes all the months of planning and hard work completely worth it!

For me, events such as this are a priority; it is important that agricultural producers get the chance to tell their story and educate those who might not fully understand the daily operations or importance of agriculture in today’s world. As someone that grew up on a dairy farm and continues to promote this remarkable industry today, this event has to be one of my favorite days of the year!

               Family Fun 2.jpg
Family Fun .jpg

About the Author: 

Melissa Humphrey is a country living financial services officer in our St. Johns branch.



June 17
Breakfast on the Farm: A Family Friendly Experience

By: Aaron Classens

Breakfast on the Farm is a family friendly experience that everyone will enjoy. Once you check-in at the registration area, you can grab your farm fresh meal cooked right in front of you and enjoy it in the sunshine while taking in the marvelous sights of a modern agriculture operation.

After you finish eating, there are plenty of great activities to take advantage of. Depending on the farm you are visiting, you may learn how cows are cared for, fed and milked, the process of planting corn, soybeans and wheat, or visit various animals in the petting zoo. You and your family are able to interact with local farmers who are proud to show and tell you what they do to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious food. Some events may even have live music, an inflatable bounce house, face painting and games. Although activities vary by location, there are always plenty of fun and educational opportunities for everyone!

With deep roots in agriculture, GreenStone is a proud supporter of the many of the Breakfast on the Farm events hosted over the summer in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. Many of our staff also take time to volunteer at the events that take place in the counties they serve.

For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit www.breakfastonthefarm.com to find a Michigan location near you! 

To learn more about the Breakfast on the Farm events in Wisconsin, read "A Reason to Celebrate: June is Dairy Month​" blog posted earlier this month or visit http://bit.ly/2014WIBOTF for more event details.

This is an opportunity that gives you the chance to take a break and relax with your family, while learning about the importance of farming in today’s world. I hope you take the time to experience one this summer!

About the Author:

Aaron Classens is a senior marketing specialist in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.


June 06
Intern Spotlight: Kelsey VanderPloeg

​This month marks the one-year anniversary of my introduction into the agriculture community. Being born and raised in the suburbs of Kalamazoo, Michigan, I was never actively involved in any agricultural groups such as the FFA or 4-H youth organizations.  Before the start of my junior year at Michigan State University (MSU), I had the opportunity to change my major. At the time, it felt like the most stressful decision I would have to make but I am glad I did it! Next May I will be graduating from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with a degree in food industry management and a specialization in agribusiness management.

With the guidance of some close friends and trusted faculty members, I joined the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and I had the opportunity to be a part of the presentation team that competed in the 2014 NAMA collegiate competition earlier this year. This not only gave me the opportunity to travel to Jacksonville, Florida, to escape the extremely cold winter in Michigan, but to network with professionals from all over the United States and further develop my presentation skills. NAMA has been a fantastic way for me to link my passion for marketing and sales with my new found interest in agriculture.

The knowledge that I have obtained from my classes at MSU, and being involved with NAMA has prepared me for a position with GreenStone as a regional sales intern. Within my role, I help find potential customers by researching subsidy lists to identify qualified individuals who could possibly benefit from the Farm Credit System. The staff at GreenStone is passionate about agriculture and providing interns like me with real-world experience that I can use in my career. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a great team that are helping me learn more each day about agriculture and the financial services available to our members. I am eager to see what the rest of my summer internship has in store for me! 

About the author:

Kelsey VanderPloeg is a regional sales intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

June 03
A Reason to Celebrate: June is Dairy Month

By: Toni Sorenson

Fresh cut grass and newly tilled soil are a few giveaways that spring has finally arrived. Although the daily forecast might not seem to agree, June means that it is it time to celebrate Dairy Month. Spring in northeast Wisconsin is off to a very slow start. While equipment and spirits are ready and willing to begin planting,  the ground is not. The farming community can always count on a few things: the weather will never be perfect and the growing season will bring challenges but, farmers will do the best they can with what they have. There is a drive to persevere and no matter what the obstacles, there is a reason to celebrate!

With Dairy Month upon us, the entire community gets to rally around what our state is known for. We grow great forages giving us the resources to make great feed, and can teach people a thing or two about helping our dairy herds produce a lot of milk.  This is America’s Dairyland! I think you would be hard pressed to find a person in northeast Wisconsin who has not heard about a dairy breakfast. 

Across Wisconsin, throughout most of June (and even a few weekends in May and July), you are sure to find hundreds of volunteers rallying together on farming operations to serve a breakfast fit for a king! It has become a tradition for many of my co-workers and I to volunteer at the breakfasts in the counties we serve. It brings a great opportunity to meet others who share a passion for agriculture. I have used these opportunities to become re-energized from those who work together to showcase the farming operations that open their facilities to the public so those who do not live on a farm can experience and learn about food production. I challenge you to invite someone who might have questions about agriculture and how their food is produced to a June Breakfast on the Farm event this year. 

The beauty of these events, or celebrations if you will, is that it is truly just a bunch of volunteers who believe in the future of agriculture and a farm, showing you how they do business, all to serve the public a delicious breakfast. I guarantee you will not have to drive far to find one near you! Check out dairydaysofsummer.com for a complete listing of Wisconsin’s June Dairy Month events. Come out and enjoy the celebration!

About the Author:

Toni Sorenson is a financial services officer in GreenStone's Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin branch.

May 30
The Tradition of American agriculture, together with Hantz Farms

By: Becky Whaley

The agricultural community has long been recognized as a community that joins forces to help one another in times of need, and May 17 was no exception.  This wonderful story of survival and community is growing even stronger in Detroit.

Six decades ago Detroit was at the height of its existence, boasting a population of 1.85 million and securing its place as America’s fourth largest city, with 296,000 manufacturing jobs and an area of 139 square miles (88,960 acres).  Today, the images of the landscape are demoralizing.  The population now stands at approximately 700,000 and an estimated 40 square miles (25,600 acres) of the landscape are classified as vacant or blight stricken areas.  Even as the area continues to change, the sense of opportunity that Detroit was built on has not stopped and GreenStone had a part in introducing the role of agriculture.

On the slightly chilly, but beautifully sunny Saturday, over 1,000 people lined the vacant lots of southeastern Detroit with shovels and work gloves to plant 15,000 trees at Hantz Woodlands.  Among them were over 100 employees, family, and friends of GreenStone who got involved to make a positive impact, and brought together urban and rural.

In the midst of all of the activity, I could not help but think of the potential magnitude that this effort to beautify one area of Detroit will have in the future.  After all, people from all walks of life and ages purposefully planted sapling trees, perfectly displaying the hope of a new future that will only be seen and realized with time.

Throughout the day, many fun conversations and interactions could be witnessed among the planters, but for me, the most exciting discussions centered on the opportunities within agriculture as the world is in a constant state of reimagining life.  For some, this re-imagination may lead them to join the agricultural industry and for others it may not.  Either way, the best traditions of American agriculture have and will stand solid in providing hope as a better future is born not of words, but of deeds.  

About the author: 

Becky Whaley is a legal and legislative specialist based in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.

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