By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
In rural Ohio and agriculture, individual farm success 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 purpose is to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture. In order to achieve that, we have to support the next generation of farmers,” said Brock Burcham, regional vice president of agricultural lending. “We take this responsibility to heart and make every attempt to engage the next generation of agriculture 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 and beginning farmers.”
The program is designed to provide sound and 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 senior financial officer. “Getting into agriculture is an endeavor that requires a lot of capital and obtaining that capital to gain entry can be a real challenge for this segment of customers. Growing Forward allows this market segment to tap into a special underwriting program with standards designed to help them get started and build their businesses. When we combine our education opportunities and business planning support, we’re helping these customers build a trusted relationship with our cooperative by giving them the tools they need to succeed.”
To get started, Growing Forward participants must be 35 years old or younger with less than 10 years of farming experience. They must complete a business plan and application.
“The development of that business plan is ultimately really what helps establish a road map for the next few years. It allows that farmer to monitor progress and lay out operational milestones and hold themselves accountable,” said Hilary Poulson, FCMA Growing Forward specialist. “Secondly, we are going to ask our customers to submit financial documents on a yearly basis. This is typically a balance sheet and tax returns. Once they have completed that business plan, they then submit their financials to FCMA every year to review. This allows our team members to help our Growing Forward customers analyze their operation’s performance year over year, help them make sound management decisions based on their financial information and ensure they are trending toward the goals they have set in that business plan.”
Growing Forward customers 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. It is a 2-day workshop we offer in each of the four states we serve. We cover the expenses. Attendees learn how to accurately assess their financial strengths and weaknesses within their operation and work toward improving their farm’s profitability and performance. Attendees also get the chance to engage with other young and beginning farmers and FCMA team members,” Poulson said. “We get a lot of positive response from our customers who attend that conference. We also offer a second level course offered every other year called Know to Thrive. It dives a little deeper into what financials look like.”
In addition, Growing Forward customers are eligible to apply for the Forward Thinker Award, with the winner getting $5,000 to invest back into their operation. The 2022 application deadline is Aug. 19. The next Know to Grow Conference will be held in Columbus in early March
To learn more e-farmcredit.com/growing-forward.