Keep Agriculture Growing – Ohio Ag Net
By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
In rural Ohio and agriculture, the success of an individual farm is a benefit to everyone. This is the impetus behind the Growing Forward program offered by Farm Credit Mid-America (FCMA) since 2014.
“FCMA’s raison d’être is to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture. To achieve this, we must support the next generation of farmers,” said Brock Burcham, regional vice president of agricultural lending. “We take this responsibility to heart and strive to engage the next generation of farmers in a number of ways, including educational efforts in farm finance and risk management. The Growing Forward program is one of the ways we provide important education to young, beginning farmers.
The program is designed to provide strong, constructive credit to meet the needs of young, beginning and small farmers through individualized credit programs and products.
“Growing Forward is one of my favorite programs we offer at FCMA,” said Amy Weaver, FCMA’s Chief Financial Officer. “Getting started in agriculture is a capital-intensive business and getting that capital to get in can be a real challenge for this customer segment. Growing Forward provides this market segment with access to a special subscription program with standards designed to help them start and grow their business. When we combine our educational opportunities with our business planning support, we help these clients build a relationship of trust with our co-op by giving them the tools they need to succeed.
To begin, Growing Forward participants must be 35 years of age or younger and have less than 10 years of farming experience. They must complete a business plan and an application.
“Developing this business plan is ultimately what really helps establish a roadmap for the next few years. This allows that farmer to track progress and set operational milestones and hold themselves accountable,” said Hilary Poulson, FCMA Growing Forward Specialist. “Second, we will require our clients to submit financial documents on an annual basis. This is usually a balance sheet and tax returns. Once they have completed this business plan, they then submit their financial statements to the FCMA annually for review. This allows our team members to help our Growing Forward clients analyze the performance of their operations from year to year, help them make informed management decisions based on their financial and to ensure that they are moving towards the objectives they have set themselves in this business plan.
Growing Forward clients can also attend the annual Know to Grow conference.
“One of the coolest things we offer through this program is our Know to Grow conference. This is a 2-day workshop that we offer in each of the four states we serve. We cover expenses. Participants learn to accurately assess their financial strengths and weaknesses within their farm and work towards improving the profitability and performance of their farm. Participants also have the chance to interact with other farmers youth and beginners and members of the FCMA team,” said Poulson. “We are getting a lot of positive responses from our customers who attend this conference. We also offer a second level course offered every other year called Know to Thrive This dives a bit deeper into what finances look like.
Additionally, Growing Forward clients are eligible to apply for the Forward Thinker Award, with the winner receiving $5,000 to reinvest in their operation. The application deadline for 2022 is August 19. The next Know to Grow conference will be held in Columbus in early March.
For more information e-farmcredit.com/croissance-forward.