When Jeff Alexander took over his dad’s farm in 1993, his family had already established a relationship with GreenStone as a lender. Along with the financing partnership, he then began working with Tax Accountant Sue Smith in the Adrian branch on tax planning services right away.
“Sue was new at GreenStone, and we were new to running the business, and so we learned together. She and her husband were getting started in farming too, and I just thought it was such a good fit, since she knew exactly where we were coming from when it came to showing us different ways to save on taxes,” Alexander said.
Jeff and his wife Julie meet with Sue a few times a year to plan their tax strategy. She helps them decide if they should pay for items ahead, or defer a payment, and they go over all their finances before the end of the year.
Sue also helped the family transfer their land into PA-116, which preserves the land for agricultural use while also reducing the amount of property taxes.
“Sue helped us navigate through PA-116 and held our hands through the process,” Alexander said. “Sue has been great about showing us what tax benefits we qualify for, and enrolling us in PA-116 helps us save money.”
Building a farm
Larry Alexander, Jeff’s dad, farmed in Hanover, Michigan, but he sold it and moved the family to Florida in 1976. After 11 months, Larry and Jeff both missed the farm. So at 15, Jeff moved back to Michigan and began farming anew with his dad on Na-Lar Farms.
On the dairy and crop farm, Jeff had his area of focus.
“I started taking care of the cows, and I wanted a registered herd in the worst way,” he said.
Over the years and generations, Jeff built up the genetics of his herd. He credits Doug Long of Longhaven Farms and Dr. Richard Fish of Countryside Veterinary Service with mentoring him through the process.
“I was infatuated with genetics, and above all others, Doug Long let me pick his brain,” he said. “Dr. Fish was also instrumental in helping me, and I probably learned more from him than any man on earth.”
Jeff’s farm won the Progressive Breeders’ Registry award over 20 times. This prestigious award is given to herds that are 80% homebred with minimum requirements for milk production.
In 2013, the farm installed robots to milk their cows, which gave Jeff the ability to attend more events with Julie. After some employee changes in 2018, Jeff decided to sell the cows and concentrate on crop farming.
Currently, they farm 1600 acres of corn, beans, hay, and wheat. They recently purchased a second baler (Silage Special) designed to bale wet hay, and they also purchased a wet wrapper. They individually wrap and seal each round bale.
Once again, Jeff benefited from GreenStone’s tax services during his transition from dairy to crop farming.
“One main factor was to minimize tax complications and liability,” tax accountant Sue Smith said. “I wanted to make sure that he didn’t have to pay more taxes than necessary when he was selling cows and dairy equipment. Also, I worked with him to make sure he was structured to be successful on the crop side of farming, just like he was successful on the dairy side of it.”
Jeff’s wife Julie is a state representative in her third and final term. They have four adult children, Adam, Andrew, Jared, and Anna. Adam farms full-time with his dad. He’s the main mechanic, and he also does the planting and combining. The boys all have F endorsement licenses so they can haul grain when needed, and this fall Anna is getting married. She and her fiancé’s family just bought their own 400-acre farm.
“She’s marrying the milk man,” Jeff said. “We’re throwing up a big tent and having the wedding reception right in their newly purchased field.”
Jeff is enjoying the reduced stress that comes with crop farming.
“After 40 years of milking cows, everything comes easy after that,” he said. “Adam does a great job with the equipment, we keep the machines maintained, and we’re working only 50-60 hours a week instead of 100. I joke that now my main job is a trophy husband.”
Alexander considers the level of trust to be an important one when considering who to work with on his taxes and finances.
“We’ve never had anyone other than Sue do our taxes, because there’s just that trust,” Alexander said. “You’re talking about someone’s livelihood. Some years you’re worrying in there when things aren’t going well, and some years you’re smiling from ear to ear when things are going well. You have to trust someone to go through all of that with them.”
Jeff started with GreenStone, and he plans to finish his farming career with them.
“My dad is 85 now, and he still does his taxes with Sue. He likes her. It’s easy – she’s such a pleasant person, and she’s really good at teaching us what we need to do. There’s never been a moment when we thought we should be with someone else. Anytime anyone asks us about taxes, we say go see Sue,” he said.
Farming is a business where cutting costs is always a concern, but in some areas there’s no argument.
“It’s always good to shop around for the best rates on everything, but not our tax accountant. There’s no other option for me. She’s the one,” Jeff said.