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January 18
Four Tips to Save Energy and Money

​GreenStone customers Paul and Erin Abeuva recently built their dream home in southwest Michigan and included a number of energy saving elements to the design. In fact, their home was named the area's first gold certifed LEED home. 

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Erin and Paul Abueva in front of their gold certified LEED home in southwest Michigan. 
 

Even if you are not building a new home from the ground up, there are still small changes you can make to save energy and money!

  1. A home energy audit is the first step to understanding your home’s energy use. To find a qualified professional to help, consult the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) at www.resnet.us

  2. Stop energy vampires! Using an advanced power strip can save up to $100 per year by reducing electronic waste when devices are idle.

  3. Light your home using the same amount of light for less money. An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy budget to lighting. By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year.

  4. A well-designed landscape not only can add beauty to your home but also can reduce your heating and cooling costs. A well-placed tree, shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak, and reduce your energy bills. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of the energy a typical household uses.
Learn about all of the energy savings measures Paul and Erin used in their home construction and read the Abueva's full story in our latest issue of Partners magazine! 

Source: Energy.gov


January 12
GreenStone Welcomes Senator Stabenow to Ann Arbor Office

GreenStone was pleased to welcome Senator Debbie Stabenow to our Ann Arbor office on Dec. 19, 2016. During her visit, Sen. Stabenow visited with GreenStone board directions, staff and customers.

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Sen. Stabenow at GreenStone's Ann Arbor office on Dec. 19.

The GreenStone team provided a Farm Credit update, including an overview of current issues of interest on agriculture, including crop insurance, trade, labor, and water resources. The Senator understands these issues and remains steadfastly supportive of agriculture and the Farm Credit System. The group also discussed topics related to opportunities and challenges of urban agriculture. Senator Stabenow addressed the importance of the next Farm Bill and her intent to include urban agriculture legislation.

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Sen. Stabenow with GreenStone staff members. 

GreenStone would like to express our thanks to Sen. Stabenow and her team for taking time to meet with GreenStone staff and customers, to answer questions and discuss the issues important to our industry today.

January 10
Agricultural Leaders of Michigan Continue Discussion on Sustainability in Agriculture

​Many issues play into the discussion of sustainability in agriculture. Increasingly, consumer interest and retail demands to show how a product was “sustainably raised” are affecting farmers and agribusinesses. To keep up to speed in a rapidly-changing conversation on sustainable food production, the Agriculture Leaders of Michigan and GreenStone Farm Credit Services hosted the fourth-annual ALM Sustainability Conference on Dec. 15, 2016 in East Lansing.

The forum focused on the social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainable production. This included updates on the many efforts underway in Michigan agriculture to demonstrate on-farm sustainability, as well as updates from expert presenters on climate issues, energy savings and beyond.

15578966_1301233433253361_4628857561228040140_n.jpg Dave Armstrong, GreenStone President and CEO presents at the ALM Sustainability Conference on Dec. 15. 

In addition to presentations from Michigan-based commodity organizations and an economic update from GreenStone's President and CEO Dave Armstrong, attendees also heard from leaders in the retail and consumer research space about the sustainability considerations in food retail. Alison Sutter, corporate responsibility manager for SpartanNash, joined the meeting to provide an overview of the company’s newly-released corporate responsibility report, and explained the value inherent to showing consumers that products have been sustainably-sourced. And Madlyn Daley, senior vice president of knowledge and insights for Dairy Management Inc. discussed consumer trends in food, with a focus on how consumers are demanding more information about the food they eat. She noted that the rapid expansion of information sharing online has had a big effect on food perceptions – in fact, more than 23 billion food-related videos were viewed online in 2015.

MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Ronald Hendrick discussed the opportunity to create new partnerships between the university and Michigan’s agriculture community, noting that working closely together will present the strongest opportunity to solve pressing challenges, including sustainability, in the food system.

To close the forum, attendees received an update from State Climatologist Dr. Jeff Andresen on weather and climate considerations for Michigan agriculture, as well as an update from the Coop Elevator Company on the energy savings benefits the cooperative has identified working together with DTE Energy.

The 2016 Sustainability Forum was one of a wide range of informational discussions and educational activities the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan undertake throughout the year. The coalition of seven commodity groups and agribusinesses actively promotes Michigan agriculture, participates in the ongoing dialogue about many issues affecting our state, and seeks to harness agriculture’s power and potential to further grow Michigan’s economy.

You can learn more about ALM by visiting www.agleadersmi.com​.

January 05
Join Us for a Connect Reception at the Great Lakes Crop Summit!

​GreenStone will host a Connect Reception at the Great Lakes Crop Summit!

Guests will hear a short update on the year, have the opportunity to ask questions and connect with your local GreenStone team.

Jan. 25, 2017
5 - 6 p.m.
Exhibit Hall, Soaring Eagle Casino
Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

If you'd like to submit questions in advance, email us at marketing@greenstonefcs.com​ and we will answer your question at the reception.

All GreenStone members and guests are welcomed to attend the reception, regardless of whether or not they are registered to attend the Expo.

If you are attending the Expo, be sure to come see us at our booth!

December 22
2016 Deer Challenge Winners

This past fall, deer hunters in northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has the opportunity to enter GreenStone’s 2016 Deer Challenge! Nearly 100 adult and youth hunters entered to win cash and prizes. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all the hunters who participated in the challenge.

Adult Winners 

  • Jim Zierden, First Place, $400
  • Ethan Klister, Second Place, $200
  • Keith Schultz, Third Place, $100

Youth Winners (17 years and under)

  • Myia Darga, First Place, $200
  • Jocelyn Nueska, Second Place, $100
Congratulations to all the winners!

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Jim Zierden with his first place buck.

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Myia Darga with her first place​ buck in the youth competition.
 
 
 


December 16
2016: The Year of Michigan's Farmer Veterans

By Adam Ingrao​

Wow, what a year! That really sums it up when I reflect back on 2016 and what has happened with the farmer veteran movement in Michigan. This year we have seen more growth and excitement around bringing military veterans into the agricultural industry than I have seen in the last three years of advocating for farmer veterans around the state. This movement all started in early 2014, when my PhD committee members at Michigan State University approved an enrichment project as part of my degree. I had proposed that I would create a statewide veterans network that would aid veterans, like myself, in finding purpose and prosperity in agriculture. At the time it seemed like a big task, creating a farmer veteran network in Michigan from scratch, but over the years of talking to anyone that would listen I have met some incredible veterans and supporters that have helped take this movement to the next level.

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In 2016, Michigan Food and Farming Systems’ (MIFFS) Vets in Ag Network connected with over 300 farmer veterans from across the state and helped coordinate more than 10 workshops on everything from food safety and business planning to soil health and raising sheep. The Vets in Ag Network also began working with MSU Extension (MSUE) Director, Jeff Dwyer, to develop educational fellowships for veterans interested in MSUE farmer training programs, such as the Apprentice Farmer Program at MSUE’s North Farm in Chatham. In addition, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan hosted the third annual Farmer Veteran Coalition National Stakeholders Conference at MSU’s Kellogg Center. This conference was the largest gathering of farmer veterans in the country, to date, and was coordinated by a diverse group of individuals from Michigan ag organizations (including GreenStone and MIFFS), federal and state agencies, and MSUE. Having been to previous Stakeholders Conferences, I can report that this conference has set the bar very high for future farmer veteran gatherings.

With all this activity in Michigan, the public has become more aware of the farmer veteran movement and I am getting asked consistently by consumers and retail buyers, “How can I purchase Michigan farmer veteran products.” Growing and raising food is often one of the easier aspects of farming, but marketing your products is a whole different skillset that can be challenging for many talented farmers. Therefore, without a resource for connecting directly with consumers and buyers, many farmer veterans find themselves “feeding the crop to the hogs” because of no direct link to a market outlet. The Vets in Ag Network has realized there is an opportunity to facilitate market connections for farmer veterans and announced last week at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Expo, the 2018 Michigan Farmer Veteran Product Guide (MFVPG). This product guide will be a paper and digital publication released in Spring 2018 that will feature the stories of farmer veterans, their farms, the products they produce, and contact information to increase public visibility in the marketplace and connect them directly with buyers and consumers. 

Veterans interested in being featured in the MFVPG can submit their information (for free) through our online submission form. Organizations interested in advertising in the MFVPG should contact the Vets in Ag Network at VIA@miffs.org to learn about sponsorship opportunities. Donations to support the project can be made online​ as well (please select Vets in Ag Network under “specific programs”). Questions about the MFVPG or the Vets in Ag Network can be directed to Adam Ingrao at VIA@miffs.org. 

The Vets in Ag Network wishes a happy holiday season to you and your family, and all the best going into the 2017 farming season.

Adam Ingrao is an Army veteran, co-Director of the MIFFS Vets in Ag Network, co-Founder of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan, owner of Bee Wise Farms LLC, and is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow in the Department of Entomology at MSU. 


December 14
Lending 101

By Ashlee Guerrero

House hunting can be a very daunting task for some, while others may enjoy every minute of the search. Besides finding a realtor to help fulfill your wants and needs, it is also important to know what to expect from a lender. As a consumer, it is important to know what goes in to applying for a loan, what documentation your lender requires, and what to expect during the process. 


What to Expect 

There are three important things to know when applying for a loan:

  1. What you can afford for a down payment
  2. Your credit score and credit history
  3. What you can afford for a monthly payment

Down payment requirements differ from lender to lender depending on what type of loan you are applying for. GreenStone finances conventional loans with down payments starting as low as 5 percent, depending on the property that is being purchased. 

Credit score/history is a vital factor lenders look at when determining your potential loan approval. GreenStone looks for credit scores of 680 and above; credit reports showing foreclosure or bankruptcy within 48 months, a short sale within 24 months, or a judgement, garnishment, or lien with a balance of over $250 may result in a denied application. 

Debt to income ratio is also an integral part in determining your chances of being approved for a loan. GreenStone looks for a total debt load of no more than 40 percent of your gross monthly income. This calculation includes car loans, student loans, revolving credit cards, real estate loans (including taxes and insurance), and the new mortgage debt payment. Lenders generally can approve you for a loan much higher than what you need, but as a consumer it is very important to know what monthly payment is comfortable for you. 

Documents Needed

When applying for a loan, whether it be with GreenStone Farm Credit Services or another lender, you need to be prepared to provide your lender with financial information. The financial information requested, by the lender, is to show proof of income and proof of assets. The following is the most common types of documentation requested by GreenStone:

  • Paystubs or salary voucher for the last 30 day period
  • Most recent two year’s W-2 statements or tax returns
  • Most recent two months of checking and savings statements
  • Most recent investment statements

If you are self-employed, additional documentation will also need to be provided:

  • 2 to 3 most recent business and personal tax returns
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Balance sheet

Expectations

After a loan is approved, an appraisal and title work is ordered. In today’s market it is taking two to three weeks to get these items back from the external vendors that render the services. Once the title and appraisal is returned they will be cleared by our credit and legal department. The appraisal should come back with a value of at least the purchase price or the loan amount may need to be adjusted. The title work should also come back without any issues or exceptions. Once the legal and credit department clear these two items a closing date is set and your dream home is now yours!

Ashlee Guerrero is a financial services officer at GreenStone's Ann Arbor branch.


November 29
Five Things to Consider When Choosing A Home Site
GreenStone financial services officer Mark Oberlin shares five things buyers should consider when looking for a home site.

 
What location is right for us?

Determining the right location begins with an honest discussion about what’s important to you and your family and the lifestyle you lead. Some questions to ask yourself include: 

  • Is the commute to work manageable?
  • Is the school district one that is right for your family? 
  • What non-work activities are important and are they close by to this location? 
  • What’s the minimum lot size needed for your family?
  • Do you want a rural location or to be closer to town? 

These and other similar questions are ones you need to formulate and then prioritize before you begin your search.

Is this home site the right one for us?

Once you have the location figured out, the next step is to identify home site options in the area that are best for you. Not every site is conducive to building your dream home. You will need to determine which is more important, the lot/location or the style of home you wish to build. Your builder can help you in this decision, as you will need to make sure that the home you want to build is possible on the lot or lots you are considering. For example, if the property is flat and you want to build a home with a walkout basement, it may not be possible or it may be at a much higher cost.

Is our dream home affordable on this location?

There are many reasons why a particular location may make your dream home unaffordable by adding costs that would not be factors at another location. This is where you will need to do your homework with the local governing bodies. Questions to ask include

  • Are there zoning restrictions on the type/size/style of home you want to build? Check with the township/sellers to determine if there are potential issues
  • Are there access issues to the property or to the house location on the property that you are considering? Again, the township can help provide an answer.  
  • Are there restrictions due to environmental concerns, such as water on the property that may result in additional cost/restrictions?

What site improvements will be needed?

With the help of your real estate professional or builder, you will need to determine what needs to be done to bring utilities to the property to live the lifestyle you want to lead. Things to consider are: 

  • What will it take to get electrical power to the property? 
  • What heat source do you want and what will be required get it, such as natural gas, propane, electric, heat pump or another system?  
  • Where is the water table in the area and what depth of well will be needed if a public water system is not available?
  • What type of septic system will be needed if a public system is not at the location?

Take time to consider the homes/properties around your site.

Most buyers fully consider the area in which their homesite is located at the present time, but often do not consider the adjoining properties and the future development options of those property owners. For example, if you are considering a location that has undeveloped property around it, could the property be developed into a multi-home complex and would you be OK with that?

Make sure you create your list of questions to ask the seller, the real estate agent, and the township officials. It is also important to look at the property several times and at different times of the day or week. Once you have done your homework, found the right property, and are ready to make an offer, be sure to work with your lender to make sure your dreams are attainable and within your budget!

Mark Oberlin is a financial services officer at GreenStone's Grand Rapids branch.


 
November 16
Join Us for a Connect Reception During the Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Show

GreenStone will host a Connect Reception at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo​.

Guests will enjoy appetizers and refreshments while learning important stockholder information and connecting with the GreenStone leadership team.

Dec. 7, 2016
4 - 6 p.m.
Monroe Room A
DeVos Place Conference Center, ​Monroe Room A 
Grand Rapids, Michigan

All GreenStone members and guests are welcomed to attend the reception, regardless of whether or not they are registered to attend the Expo.

If you are attending the Expo, be sure to come see us at our booth, 809 and 810!


November 11
GreenStone Offers Support to Veterans Looking to Careers in Agriculture

In honor of Veteran’s Day, GreenStone is proud to provide scholarships to eight Michigan veterans to attend the 2016 Farmer Veteran Coalition National Stakeholders Conference​. Katy Tuckerman is an Army veteran and one of the scholarship recipients, and she recently spoke with GreenStone about her journey from the military to agriculture. We offer our sincere thanks to Katy, and to all veterans across the country, for such dedicated service and sacrifice.  


For Army veteran Katy Tuckerman, the idea of returning to her family farm, Floodwood Creek Farm, in Blissfield, Michigan is both daunting and exciting. After serving eight years in the Army Reserves, Katy completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Policy and Decision Making in 2014. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree at Ohio State University, and later this month, she’ll attend the Farmer Veteran Coalition National Stakeholders Conference with a conference scholarship from GreenStone. 

Growing up in Blissfield, Michigan, Katy was raised on a 1,100 acre cash crop and beef cattle farm, which is still managed by her father and brother. After high school, she left Blissfield to join the ROTC program at Ohio State, but was unsure about what subject to select as her major. She decided the best course of action was to enlist in the Army after her first year in college. “The military gives you so many life experiences,” said Katy. “It really helps you understand what’s important.”

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                  Tuckerman on deployment with with U.S. Army.

While in the Army she deployed to the Middle East, focusing on civil affairs and capacity building. This meant that she worked in collaboration with infantry to stabilize the area and help the local community members cope with living through war. While there she also collaborated with representatives from United States Department of Agriculture to assess local infrastructure regarding agriculture.

Next spring she’ll finish her master’s degree, which includes coursework on agriculture public policy and technical subject matters, such as soil conservation. With her father nearing retirement, she hopes to take that skill set back home, where she can join her brother on the family farm operation.

“Given what I have studied in school and my interests, I’d love to transition the farm to organic,” said Katy. She recognizes the hurdles involved in such a transition, and is preparing by starting to have conversations with her father and brother about what the move to organic could mean for the farm. “There are so many factors,” Katy remarked. “It would completely change the structure of the farm.” 

Katy’s father and brother are open to the possibility, and that coupled with her passion for conservation would make the obstacles worth the effort. “My dad is the person I learned conversation from. If anyone taught me to be environmentally conscious, it was my father.” 



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