By Sue Moore
GreenStone Farm Credit Services recently dedicated a new building in Schoolcraft. Those outside the agriculture industry may be unfamiliar with the company and the services it provides, according to Dennis Nykamp, vice president for commercial lending.
Nykamp has been with Greenstone for 40 years, primarily serving the farm community in southwest Michigan. There are 14 employees in the Schoolcraft branch, 150 at the headquarters in East Lansing and 500 employees in all 36 offices stretching to Escanaba in Michigan and into Wisconsin.
“We support rural communities and agricultural producers with financial products and services,” says Dave Armstrong, president and CEO of GreenStone. “It’s our niche and we try to be the best. As a lending institution, GreenStone provides the capital necessary for farmers to own their own land and manage their business, and we provide long-term investments in rural communities. With 36 branches across our territory, managed loan growth was at 7.4 percent in 2015, with $7.8 billion in total assets,” Armstrong said.
“Like anything in life, lending is about relationships. We know about agriculture and what is involved. We make personal visits on the farm to talk with the farmers about their unique needs for capital, seed, fertilizer and chemicals, including revolving lines of credit. In addition, we also finance rural living – recreational land, home sites, construction mortgages, country homes and hobby farms.”
“The state of the art technology in this new building will help us track business trends and become even more efficient. The footprint in this new facility is similar to others we have built in the last few years, so pieces of it are all interchangeable,” Armstrong said.
Nykamp has seen many changes in this neck of the woods through his work with the bedding plant industry, greenhouse growers and blueberries, his specialty. “I’m a farm boy, as are most of our lenders. There is something about the work ethic that we share with farmers that they understand when we call on them.”
Having experience in the Schoolcraft office for most of his 40 years, he has seen the many cycles of farming. “The 80s were a tough time,” he said.
In 1986, a merger occurred when the Production Credit Association, which had been the name of the office in Schoolcraft, merged with the Federal Land Bank, which was created as an act of Congress in 1916. Congress realized how difficult it was to get money for farming and saw that there needed a better way to distribute through local land banks. Each township had one, but they were not government agencies. Then in 2000, the four associations in Lower Michigan merged to create GreenStone, as it is known today.
“This year we’re celebrating 100 years in lending and the eleventh year of our patronage program. As a borrower-owned cooperative, we offer a unique program that allows us to return a portion of net profits to eligible members each year. This March we’re pleased to return more than $35 million, bringing our 11-year total to $235 million. We exist in service to our members and the agricultural community. It’s because of our hardworking members that we can offer patronage, and while markets change, we look forward to the next 100 years, committed to our customers and to ensuring that patronage is a benefit of membership,” Nykamp said.