Growing Forward program gives young, beginning and small farmers a strong start
Farming is hard. Building a business as a small farmer, or starting from scratch as a young or beginning farmer? Even harder.
The barriers to entry – expensive capital investments like land and equipment – can make farming one of the most challenging industries to break into, but a new and growing generation of young, beginning and small farmers are necessary to ensure the future of Ohio’s vital agriculture industry. And it’s why Farm Credit Mid-America’s Growing Forward program – geared specifically toward this group – is so critical.
“It’s not easy to just go out and decide you’re going to buy a farm one day,” said Micah Mensing, the cooperative’s Growing Forward specialist in Ohio. “By partnering with our team, customers gain access to expertise that will guide them through the process from start to finish.”
Growing Forward, which is free to qualifying Farm Credit Mid-America customers, provides content, curriculum and training to help young, beginning and small farmers gain the financial acumen and business know-how necessary to run a successful operation. Specialists like Mensing work with growers on everything from the importance of balance sheets and how to fill them out, to understanding the ins and outs of the loan application process. They also help farmers create business plans, set goals and factor in non-farm-related expenses – like car purchases and school loans – to ensure they reach those goals.
“We’re not here to show you how to plant the seed; we teach you how to do everything else before that seed is planted,” Mensing explained. “Sometimes the difference between making money and not is in the bookwork. It’s understanding your expenses and revenues, and managing them to make sure you’re profitable.”
The program also provides sound and constructive credit for these farmers through individualized credit programs and products such as specialized underwriting standards and a Farm Service Agency loan guarantee reimbursement of 50% for young or beginning farmers.
In Farm Credit Mid-America’s four-state territory of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, there are more than 280,000 young, beginning and small farmers. In Ohio alone, Farm Credit Mid-America lent $3.9 billion to young and beginning farmers in 2020. With the older generation of farmers retiring, giving the next generation a solid foundation is key to success. And Farm Credit Mid-America is committed to not only getting these farmers started, but growing alongside them.
“It’s our mission to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture,” Mensing said, “and Growing Forward is how we do that.”