For Dave Ballman, a financial services officer with GreenStone Farm Credit Services in Lapeer, Mich., bumper stickers with the phrase 'No Farms, No Food' are common on vehicles in his area. It's not just decoration for him, though, but rather a truth that he carries with him as a member of the GreenStone family.
"Those bumper stickers are designed to raise awareness about the importance of America's farms in supplying us with a sustainable food supply," Dave explained. "At GreenStone, we've made it our mission to take that one step further and make a difference in the communities we serve each and every day."
GreenStone, headquartered in Lansing, is the sixth largest association in the Farm Credit System, which is made up of lenders across the country who work to provide farmers with financial support. They cover territory throughout Michigan and Wisconsin, in addition to offering rural living and recreational loans to people without farms. GreenStone recognizes that they have a responsibility beyond supporting the current generation of rural farmers and residents - they must also play a part in guaranteeing a bright future for the next generation.
"We're working with numerous organizations throughout Michigan and northeast Wisconsin to further the cause of agriculture, ensuring our food supply does not become an outsourced commodity," Dave said.
Starting in June 2009 and continuing on through 2010, GreenStone embarked on a new activity meant to celebrate the agricultural industry and educate the general public about modern-day farming. They worked with Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) to help sponsor four 'Breakfast on the Farm' events where families enjoyed breakfast featuring Michigan products and then got a tour of a real, working dairy farm. At each event, more than 1,500 people were present to learn about what happens on a farm every day.
"Dairy farming has changed immensely since the 1970s and 1980s, and many people are not familiar with the new technology," said Nancy Thelen, Washtenaw County MSUE director and a member of the planning committee for the event held in her area. "Breakfast on the Farm provides a fun setting to come face-to-face with the farm families who are responsible for producing our affordable and safe food supply."
As a part of their community-driven mission, GreenStone also made it a priority to provide support and develop programs geared toward youth pursuing a future in agriculture. With the number of opportunities for employment in agriculture growing all the time, it's important for youth to know the possibilities that are available and have the support to accomplish their goals. In 2010, GreenStone awarded $2000 scholarships to one Wisconsin and five Michigan high school seniors pursuing agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University (MSU), respectively.
GreenStone has also been a strong supporter of the Michigan FFA Foundation since the Foundation was founded in 1993. FFA (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) is the largest youth organization in the country with over a half million members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The mission of FFA is to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The Michigan FFA Foundation acts as the financial support system of the Michigan FFA Association.
"In 2009, we pledged $200,000 to help create the GreenStone Farm Credit Services and James F. Schiller Endowment for FFA and Agriculture Education at Michigan State University," Dave shared. "This endowment will support the development of career and technical agriculture education curriculum and support programs in MSU's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources."
Beyond large ticket monetary support, GreenStone continues to play a significant role in supporting youth through county fairs and livestock shows throughout the state. They never fail to donate supplies or purchase an animal project in order to support groups like 4-H and FFA.
"By supporting youth in agriculture, we are supporting those who will produce our food for years to come" Dave said. "That's something GreenStone is extremely proud to be a part of."
Agriculture isn't the only thing company employees are involved in, though.
"We're active in our churches, chambers of commerce, community service organizations and schools," Dave shared. "We may be part of a farming business, but these are our homes, too."
He urges everyone to get involved in agriculture and work to make a difference, "whether you're a country mouse or a city mouse."
"As our [GreenStone] CEO, Dave Armstrong, once said, 'If you like to eat, you're involved in agriculture.'"
For more information on GreenStone Farm Credit Services, visit their website at http://www.greenstonefcs.com.