Watching Every Dollar
1/16/2019
Photo of two men and a woman in a barn.

In today’s tight agriculture economy, knowing how every dollar is spent, and its subsequent impact on the farm’s financial strength, is increasingly more important to the sustainability of the farm. For dairy farmers, like the Plattes, analyzing their business by small increments versus a “lump sum” gives them a better understanding of the true costs within their farm.

Working with GreenStone’s tax and accounting team, Scott Martin and Stephanie Luark, the Plattes are taking a close look at all their enterprises to make informed business decisions.

“Working with Scott, we are seeing the places in our business where we are doing well and places where we can do better,” says Chuck Platte. “By doing a better job of accounting we can see the true costs of doing things like putting up silage or raising calves and then decide if we are better off to do those things ourselves or not.”

Chuck and his wife, Sue along with their son, Paul, operate a 1,200 cow dairy farm in Westphalia, Michigan. The cows and youngstock are housed on two separate locations in Clinton County. Collectively, they have 20 employees working with them on the dairies. Recently, they reached out to the GreenStone tax and accounting team to help them with their accounting functions, including payroll, to be more efficient in their financial activities.

Prior to utilizing the GreenStone team, Sue handled the books and payroll for the farm. While Sue was happy to help where she could with the farm business, as the farm grew and became more complicated she worried about the risks involved if she did something incorrect.

“Because I don’t have the financial background, I would always worry, ‘what if I missed something – what if I made a mistake?’ I didn’t want to make a mistake that could be costly or have penalties. With the way all the tax laws change it was even more stressful,” Sue says. “By teaming up with the experienced GreenStone staff, Stephanie and Scott, we have comfort knowing the job is done right.”
The Plattes, who have used GreenStone for financing for several years, first started working with the tax and accounting experts in 2015 to prepare the farm taxes. From there, they have continued to work with the team on a number of services, a partnership Paul believes is critical to their business.

“At times like this, when things are so tight, we have to have an open and transparent relationship with our lender,” Paul says. “GreenStone is a big part of our business and probably the most important partner we have. Working with them on everything – the accounting, payroll, taxes and financing prevents any surprises and creates transparency I think we need to have. As we move forward and grow, we want them to have a pulse on our business to help us make informed decisions.”

The Plattes are the current owners of their family’s 100-plus year-old farm. Chuck and Sue took over the operation in 2006 from his parents. Since that time they have increased the herd size ten-fold, including the addition of second dairy farm, and the cropping to over 2,300 acres. For Chuck, who worked at General Motors for 30 years, assuming the family farm was his way of helping transition the next generation into the family business.

“We want to be a bridge for Paul to be able to take on the dairy farm,” Chuck says. “I worked along side my dad on the farm, even when I was at GM, and Paul was always at my side, too. This is our way of keeping the family on the farm.”

Today, Paul and his wife, Brooke, are raising their two sons in the same house Chuck grew up in. It is a blessing they don’t take for granted.

“We are seeing a lot of really good farmers selling their cows and leaving the farm. It is very sad. These are hard-working, good people who have farmed all their life and it still wasn’t enough,” Chuck says.

Link to full article here: https://issuu.com/greenstonefcs/docs/partners_winter_19_final/38 



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