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Growing a Dream

by Mark Parker
Sometimes, hard work and desire aren’t enough to get you where you want to go. Sometimes, it takes off-farm, high-level expertise to help you attain your goals.

Ben Giger and his wife, Leah, turned to Frontier Farm Credit to assist them in solidifying their family’s future in farming. After graduating from Kansas State University and returning to the home place in 2002, Ben wanted to join his parents, Alan and Carol, in their Elmdale, Kan., crop and livestock operation.

The Gigers faced a problem familiar to a lot of farm folks. The operation just wasn’t large enough to support both families. Working part-time for a neighbor helped for a while, but Ben and his dad knew they would have to expand the business.

Growing a production agriculture enterprise is, of course, far more complex than simply obtaining a loan for more land or livestock. And that’s where Frontier Farm Credit was able to help in numerous ways. Although it began with credit to help the Gigers generate more income, over the past few years the partnership between the Flint Hills family and Frontier Farm Credit has grown.

Today, Frontier Farm Credit experts handle accounting and tax services for the operation as well as helping select optimum crop insurance products. Frontier professionals guided them in formulating a generational succession plan. They provide online, 24-7 access to account information and, last year, Ben was able to purchase his first farm with a Frontier Farm Credit AgStart young beginning farmer loan.

For Ben, though, much of the benefit to doing business with Frontier Farm Credit is in the form of solid financial guidance and a relationship he can rely on.

“It feels like they’re on our side, that they’re part of our team,” he says. “Besides the capital it takes to expand, Frontier Farm Credit has given us informed, sound financial advice. They’re pretty conservative and that suits us just fine. We want to succeed and they want us to succeed.”

The commitment to success defines Frontier Farm Credit’s role, according to Gena Ott, the Gigers’ financial services officer.

“The Giger family has been wonderful to work with,” she says. “They’re very open and forthcoming about their plans and what they want to accomplish. That helps us better advise them and it helps us put together the products that are best aligned with their business goals. It’s very satisfying to provide financial expertise that allows them to really focus on management and production — and to be successful.”

The Giger operation has gone through some dramatic changes, expanding both in crop and livestock enterprises. Ben and Alan run about 300 head of Angus-base cows that are bred to Salers bulls. An important part of the farm’s expansion has been the addition of a 500-head/year feedlot, delivering Source & Age Verified, black-hided fed calves to Creekstone Farms, an Arkansas City processor that provides natural and premium Black Angus beef.

“Formerly, we’d just background our calves until January and take them to a sale barn,” Ben explains. “The feedlot has enabled us to capitalize on our management and increase our income — and, it gives us carcass data and other information that helps us make better breeding decisions.”

On the crop side, the Gigers have also expanded, growing more no-till wheat, corn and soybeans in the Cottonwood River bottoms of Chase County. All in all, the farm encompasses 2,500 acres of pasture, 1,600 acres of crop ground and 150 acres of hay meadow. Frontier Farm Credit has provided financing for headquarters improvements such as grain bins, equipment storage structures and the feedlot expansion in addition to remodeling the farm home Ben and Leah share with sons Henry, 5; Harrison, 3; and Heath, 1.

Growing the business, however, brings with it other considerations. In particular, the Gigers needed a succession plan for Ben and Leah to eventually take over the operation from Ben’s parents.

Dennis Roddy, Frontier Farm Credit senior vice president, Business Services, led a team that, among other things, helped the Gigers form a Subchapter S corporation, establish trusts for Alan and Carol, and obtain life insurance for Alan and Carol to ensure that the non-farm heirs would be treated equitably in the distribution of their parents’ estate.

Business Services complement Frontier Farm Credit’s lending services by helping customers capture synergies in business management. “In the case of the Gigers, we’re able to have a dialogue with their tax accountant, their lender, and their crop insurance provider,” Roddy explains. “There is a better clarity of their business situation and goals — that’s very valuable in ensuring that we provide the very best products and advice for their particular situation.”

“Every farm is different, every family is different. The key is finding the very best way to serve the customer and that means knowing where they want to go and helping them identify the best way to get there.”

With a knowledgeable support staff and six tax accounting professionals — including four CPAs and two MBAs — the business services team offers very high-level financial expertise but Roddy suggests that one of their most important qualifications is much more basic.

“We have people who really understand agriculture,” he asserts. “It’s what we do.”

And, Roddy notes, there’s another good reason the Gigers take full advantage of what Frontier Farm Credit offers. “The other very real benefit for the Gigers is convenience,” he continues. “They can come in and have a conversation with their lender and, if necessary, we can bring their tax accountant or their crop insurance agent into the dialogue. The same thing holds true if they’re conducting business electronically or by phone — the professionals they rely on are all right here and that leads to betterinformed decisions.”

And Ben agrees: “It’s great to have it all in one spot,” he says. “They’re able to give us more informed advice and help us make better choices. Dennis Roddy and his people have been really good on tax issues and the succession plan makes the future more clear — there’s more motivation to work hard when you know you’re going to receive the benefits of that work.”

Just as Ben and Alan work side-by-side in their Flint Hills farming and livestock enterprises, Frontier Farm Credit has worked side-by-side with them to help accomplish their goals.

“We needed to expand and they made it happen,” Ben concludes. “I love doing business with them.”

To learn more about strategically tailored agricultural lending and financial services opportunities, visit with the folks at your local Frontier Farm Credit office.