SHARING THE COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES
Without education, cooperatives are simply one generation away from extinction.
Many of the unique activities GreenStone participates in are driven by the fact we operate under a cooperative business structure. Being a cooperative means our focus extends far beyond the bottom line of the association, and touches the individual needs and concerns of our 24,000 members, exhibited each year in the return of patronage to members. Additionally, as a cooperative, our values include the continual education, awareness and appreciation of the cooperative system and its principles both locally and globally.
Through relationships GreenStone members have built in Eastern Africa and Michigan State University (MSU), GreenStone has been engaged in educating both farmers and government leaders about what a farmer owned credit cooperative might achieve in a developing country.
This past spring, GreenStone had the opportunity to participate in a MSU Professional Fellows program, hosting Eudine Asara Awuzu, a young professional woman from Uganda. Eudine graduated in 2014 with honors in Bachelor of commerce from Makerere University Kampala. Currently, she is a student with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda to become a CPA.
"Working alongside our Michigan farmers who are helping to improve agricultural practices in Africa, combined with Eudine’s fellowship at GreenStone, has been a wonderful experience for our cooperative," says Pete Lemmer, GreenStone’s chief legal counsel.
The mutual exchange of information between Eudine and the GreenStone staff was enlightening for both parties. For Eudine, the exposure to the GreenStone business model opened her eyes to the tremendous opportunity a lender like Farm Credit could be in her home territory. Before returning to Africa, we asked Eudine about her experience and learnings at GreenStone.
Q: Tell us about your experience and background in Uganda and how it brought you to GreenStone:
A: In Uganda, I work as a project accountant with Numa Feeds, a grain processing company. We work with local women to source the grain that is used for human and animal food. I work personally with rural farmer groups to help them learn basic bookkeeping and to produce the high-quality grain we need. I was selected from my region to join the Fellows program as a way to bring back information to our company and our farmers.
Q: What was the most impactful thing you learned and hope to share with your farmers?
A: I spent a lot of time meeting with people at GreenStone learning the details of the Farm Credit System and how it works. Credit is the biggest thing holding our farmers back. Our farmers don’t trust the big banks because they charge high interest and you can go to prison or have all your assets taken away if you fail to pay them back. Our farmers work together, like a cooperative, pooling their money together to help each other out, but it is never enough.
Our farmers could really benefit from a system like Farm Credit. Making adjustments for farmers like making loan payments due at harvest would make a big difference. I had a different project in mind when I came here, but now I really hope to bring the Farm Credit concept to our company to see how we could use it to help our farmers get access to credit. Our farmers are open-minded people and want to do more, but without access to credit they can’t buy the things important to the crop, like fertilizers. I hope to keep communicating with the people I met at GreenStone and continue to build from what I learned.
Q: You had a chance to visit a couple farms in Michigan. Tell us about your experience.
A: I was amazed at the technology used at the dairy farm. The experience was mind-blowing. The way they diversified the farm, selling the cows and genetics and not just milk. It makes me appreciate the technology and made me realize cows can give you more if you invest in them. (The Fellows group toured Jorgensen’s dairy farm in Webberville and had the opportunity to learn about breeding technologies.)
Q: What was the biggest cultural difference between Uganda and the States?
A: Shopping! Everything is so big and organized – it is overwhelming. We went to the store with just shoes (DSW) and Meijer is unbelievable! I couldn’t believe they use machines to take your money. Everything is so automated and so many choices.
The Professional Fellows Program Advancing Young Women Agribusiness Entrepreneurs and Innovators: A Kenya- Tanzania-Uganda-US partnership is a four-week program including a professional internship with Michigan organizations focused on agriculture, innovation, agro-entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.
GreenStone Remains in a Strong Financial Position in 2018
GreenStone Farm Credit Services recently released its first quarter stockholder report, detailing earnings of $45.8 million for the three months ended March 31, 2018. Comparatively, net income was $38.0 million for the same period last year. Owned and managed loan volume totaled $8.3 billion at March 31, 2018.
"Increasing business activity coupled with internal efficiencies allows us to continue to post strong earnings," said Travis Jones, GreenStone’s chief financial officer. "Maintaining a strong financial position allows us to better serve our members in challenging times. As a member-owned cooperative, it is vital we remain in a solid position to better serve our members. This was highlighted in March when we returned $50 million in patronage dividends to our member-owners."
Other numbers of note from this quarter’s stockholder report include:
• GreenStone received a one-time refund from the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation of $4.8 million.
• Operating expenses remained well-controlled as our efficiency ratio was 34.9 percent.
• Acceptable loan credit quality remained unchanged from December 31, 2017 at 94.1 percent.
• The total capital ratio was 17.0 percent.
The complete first quarter stockholder report can be viewed online by visiting: www.greenstonefcs.com .
GRAND OPENING – Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center
After years of planning, fundraising and building, the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center will open its doors on July 28 featuring guests from Manitowoc County and the State of Wisconsin.
The discovery center is an interactive educational attraction focusing on the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture within a framework of sustainable and responsible farming practices.
The $13 million project began in 2010 as the brainchild of a group of professionals in the agriculture industry. GreenStone and other Farm Credit associations, as well as numerous other industry supporters, made financial contributions to the project.
The tourist attraction will feature interactive exhibits, farm tours and a birthing barn. The Discovery Center estimates it will attract 100,000 visitors annually, including school groups and bus tours.
Grand opening celebration for the Wisconsin Tour the New Discovery Center is Saturday, July 28, and Sunday July 29, 2018.
Link to the full Member News article: