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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.

February 02
​The Next Generation is Back. Now What?

By Barb Dartt, DMV, MS

I met Karen for coffee to chat about her family’s business. Karen’s son, Brett, had been back working for the operation for two years. Prior to that, he’d completed college and had three successful years at a construction company. Her husband, John, had been really excited when Brett agreed to return. Brett and John had always seemed destined to work together. They had complimentary skills. They respected and enjoyed each other.

These days, though, Brett seemed increasingly frustrated. More and more often, he came to his Mom to complain about John. The topics ranged from:

  • Petty annoyances: He STILL doesn’t have his spray logs turned in! How am I supposed to take my weekend off AND hit the deadline for turning them into the state?

  • Old habits: He told me that during the winter, Ray reports to me since I’m running the shop. But in the last two weeks, he’s taken Ray four times to work on clearing fence lines without checking to see what I had planned.

  • Long-term, serious topics: We are talking about purchasing the Anderson ground. I’ve been here two years and I’m not an owner yet. We’re not even talking about ownership. It’s hard to get excited about growth. If you and Dad expand, it just feels like more that I’ll have to turn around and buy from you.

 “Is this normal?” Karen asked. 

“Absolutely!” I replied.

Tension between the generations is normal and healthy. The next generation (next gen) almost always wants to proceed at a faster pace than the senior generation. The infusion of their energy, excitement and innovation is an important source of renewal for family businesses. In fact, if they weren’t “nipping at your heels” a bit, you might be concerned about their ability to take on future business management and ownership.

So you have the next gen back in the business. What should you do to set the stage for their eventual business leadership and ownership?

Before we talk about what to do next, I’m going to set the stage with a couple assumptions. First, I will assume that your next gen were invited to return because the business needs their valuable skills (and not just their labor). Second, I am assuming that the business is either big enough to accommodate the next gen’s compensation OR the next gen came along with a growth plan to which the business is committed.

Assuming you next gens are working in your business upon your invitation, their skills bring value to the business and your operation is big enough (or soon will be) to support their compensation, here’s how to set them (and you!) up for success. In my experience, transition works best if you follow these steps in order.

Clearly assign responsibility so your next gen(s) can be become a high performing employee.

  • Create a clear role for your new family employee. Let them know what they are responsible for and what expected performance looks like. Talk about things like work hours, weekend duty, pay and how they get a raise, as well as behaviors like how they are expected to treat other employees – both family and non-family.
  • Some folks recommend a job description at this point. I wouldn’t disagree with this approach. Typical job descriptions don’t include quite enough detail (e.g. pay expectations) and don’t substitute for actually having the conversation with your next gen.
  • If your next gen had a highly responsible off-farm job before returning, they may bypass time spent within this role. Even if that’s the case, the need to create and communicate expectations around a clear business role still exists – that role might just start at a higher level.
​After the next gen has proven that they are a high performer in an area, give them some control over a portion of the business.

  • It might be as broad as control of a full enterprise or as narrow as a seasonal project.
  • Often this step requires two things from one or more senior generation folks
  • You must give up some control to make space for the next gen to learn and grow.
  • You must watch someone with much less experience make poorer decisions more slowly than you would. It takes patience and a deep commitment to continuity of the business to be patient and coach the next gen through this period.

This control should include lots of clarity around which decisions are theirs and which are joint. For example, if the next gen takes over the cropping enterprise so you (as the senior generation member) can focus on the livestock side, do they get to make the call on variety selection? Rotation? Number of part-time truck drivers during harvest? Nothing discourages next gens faster than thinking they have the authority to make a decision – and then having their call trumped by Dad (or Uncle. Or Mom.).

Finally, after a next gen has proven themselves to be a high-performing employee and that they can grow into leadership and control of a portion of the business, they have earned the right to be an owner.

Karen, John and Brett were following this progressive approach. Brett was a valued member of the business who’d been invited back. He’d had a chance to perform as an employee and was recently “promoted” to a position that included authority over the sow herd. And yet, he and his Dad (and he and his boss!) had occasional conflict. Brett wanted things to come faster. John, at 56, had lots more wisdom and work to provide. 

Some tension between the generations is a normal part of family business. But if you are today’s senior generation and want your family business to continue, you have both the authority and the responsibility to create a process within which the next gen has a chance to be successful. As I have said before in this column, it may be the hardest AND the most rewarding work you do on your business.

Barb is a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, working with families and management teams to help them keep their business healthy and the people happy. Barb can be reached at 269-382-0539 or dartt@thefbcg.com. 


January 24
Join Us for a Connect Reception at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference!

GreenStone will host a Connect Reception at the Great Lakes Regional Dairy Conference!​​

Enjoy appetizers and refreshments at the reception while learning relevant stockholder information and connecting with the GreenStone team!

Attendees will hear a short update on the year, have the opportunity to ask questions and connect with your local GreenStone team. If you'd like to submit questions in advance, email us at marketing@greenstonefcs.com​ and we will answer your question at the reception.

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017
5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Great Lakes Dairy Conference
Altmuehl Room, Bavarian Inn

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

If you are attending the conference, be sure to stop by our booth!

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 into 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 could 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 could save $75 each year.

  4. A well-designed landscape can not only add beauty to your home, but can also 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.

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