Often times a family farm’s legacy is preserved in the homes the families are raised in. Along with new barns, additional acreage and new machinery, farm successions may include new homes. For the Oberski family in Bad Axe, Michigan, the farm’s history is punctuated by the homes where the families lived, eventually returning to the place of the original farmstead.
When Mark and Teresa Oberski married in 1980, they joined his parents on the family dairy farm and moved into the farmhouse where Mark was raised. His parents then moved to another home a quarter-mile down the road.
The Oberski’s dairy farm evolved over two decades from a 20-cow stanchion barn to a 150-cow freestall farm. During this time, the Oberskis also started a family, raising four children on the farm. In 2001, they took a critical look at their current farm and what they wanted to be doing in the future. Working with a GreenStone team of financial services officers and tax accountants, they began transitioning from dairy to a cash crop farm.
"They helped us with business planning and forecasting, giving us the confidence to see that we could make a living on the crops instead of the cows," Mark says. "They walked us through the transition and helped us see what we could expect."
Through the transition, the Obeski’s son, Jeff, joined the family business. When Jeff and his wife joined the farm, the families again shuffled houses, with Mark and Teresa moving to his parent’s house and Jeff and his wife, Ashley, moving to the house on the farm.
Today, the Oberskis farm 1,500 acres with the bulk of their crops going into feed for neighboring dairy farms. Mark provides corn, soybeans and haylage to a feed distributor who supplies the dairies.
With the next generation on the farm, Mark and Teresa decided they had one more move to make: building their dream home. Looking across the land they owned and previous homes they lived in, they decided to return to the original homestead where Mark’s grandparents first lived. They took down the old farmhouse and began designing a new house in the same location.
New Home with Old Traditions
The Oberskis are fortunate their son-in-law, Jon Herzog, owns Herzog Construction, a home construction business. Working with Jon, they designed a home big enough to host their growing family, yet the right size for Mark and Teresa.
Together, they designed a 2,100 square foot, three-bedroom ranch home with a walk-out basement. The layout includes an open first floor with plenty of kitchen and dining space to host family dinners. The basement has two large bedrooms for grandchildren sleepovers and overnight guests.
"There is enough space for everyone when they come," Teresa says. "This past Christmas was so nice, not to have everyone crowded into the kitchen, yet we were all together."
Working with Jon, the Oberskis purchased most of their materials before they started to build. Having the materials in place and most of the decision-making out of the way, enabled the construction crew to stay on schedule and finish in about six months.
"We trusted Jon to keep everything on track," Mark says. "He set the schedule with the contractors, so once they got started they just kept going. It also helped that we didn’t make any changes once they began."
Building a new home, rather than retrofitting an existing home allowed the Oberskis to add in new energy saving details, including a heat pump that acts as an air conditioner and a heating unit. They also installed a variable speed well that keeps their water pressure at a constant rate.
"It is amazing how much more efficient things are," Mark says. "The new windows are so air-tight they are pressure tested. No more watching the curtains blow around the windows!"
For Teresa, the real excitement of a new home was the decorating. She relied on Jon’s expertise in the overall construction and layout and then turned to Pinterest for decorating ideas.
"I wanted a timeless feel in our home," Teresa says. "It is a new house, but it is built where the first farmhouse was, so we wanted to incorporate that."
Teresa chose neutral colors of grey and white on the walls and woodwork and brown flooring throughout much of the house. She uses accent pieces in each room to add color where needed. With this approach, she will easily be able to change colors with seasons or personal preference.
"This will be our last home so we wanted to include all the things we wanted and may need," Teresa says. "The bathrooms have wide doors, the walk-in shower is easily accessible and everything we need is on the first floor."
Transitioning with GreenStone
When the Oberskis first started on the dairy almost 40 years ago, they reached out to Farm Credit (GreenStone) to help with the financing. Through their growth in the dairy industry and transition to cash cropping, they continued working with Farm Credit for financing needs. However, when it came to a home construction loan, they did not think about GreenStone initially.
"We have always used GreenStone for the farm, and love working with them," Mark says. "We just didn’t think about them as a place for a construction loan. We were looking at local banks when Les (Karr, GreenStone employee) suggested we work with them."
Working with Les and Wanda Skinner, also GreenStone employee, the Oberski’s secured a construction loan for the building process that converted to a mortgage at the end of the construction.
"Meeting with Mark and Teresa it was evident they had spent a great deal of time planning each and every detail of their dream home in how organized and well prepared they were," Wanda says. "It truly is an honor being a part of helping their dream become a reality."
"It was all very easy for us," Mark says. "We have worked with GreenStone since we started farming and it has always been a good relationship. We may have gotten a lower rate at a bank, but we liked the flexibility with GreenStone and knew the process would go smoothly. We were glad we were able to do our home financing through them, too."
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