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A solid equation: Experience, education and opportunity

by Mark Parker

Clint Holland has a cattleman’s pedigree. The young man from LaCygne, Kansas, has the background, the experience and the desire to embark on a career of putting beef on America’s dinner table.

What he needs is a start.

“This is a young guy from a hard-working family who wants to be a beef producer,” explains Rick Kuhle, a Frontier Farm Credit Financial Services officer based in Baldwin, Kansas. “Clint is a great example of how AgStart can help the next generation of farmers and ranchers get a start in production agriculture.”

AgStart is Frontier Farm Credit’s financial and educational resource for young, beginning and minority farmers and ranchers who need a leg-up to climb into the business of production agriculture.

For Clint, AgStart provided the capital to purchase lightweight feeder calves, enhance their value in a stocker program, and market them as feedlot-ready in the 700-lb. weight range.

“I buy cattle that can be improved,” Clint explains. “I go to area sale barns and try to identify under-valued calves that just need a little TLC — mainly singles and doubles because I can usually buy them a little cheaper.”

The adding-value strategy mirrors what his parents, Mike and Angie Holland, do on their Miami County operation. Getting calves straightened up and onto a good nutritional plan, Clint aims to add about 250 pounds to each, primarily utilizing grass he leases near the family’s ranch headquarters.

Clint bought his first calves with the help of AgStart in April of 2010. Since then, he’s shipped about 120 head with an average profit of $75/head.

“It’s worked pretty well,” he observes. “I’ve been able to ship my cattle with my dad’s loads and that’s enabled me to market my calves in larger groups and that helps maximize their value.” Most of the calves are sold directly to feedyards in western Kansas.

“I couldn’t have asked for it to work out better,” Clint says. “Rick (Kuhle) and everybody at Frontier Farm Credit has been extremely helpful and, of course, I couldn’t do it without my parents.”

Providing the capital for Clint to get a start in the cattle business is just one aspect of AgStart. Through Farm Credit University’s AgBiz Planner, Clint is also increasing his business knowledge. Having attended Allen County Community College, he’s now a junior at Fort Hays State University so education figures strongly in his future plans. AgBiz Planner complements Clint’s educational goals with a real-world curriculum designed to improve business-planning skills and further his financial knowledge.

“So far I really like it,” he says. “It’s definitely going to help me on the business side of things. I think it will make me more aware of my finances and help me do a better job of business planning.”

Joe Metzen, who is the AgStart staff leader for Frontier Farm Credit, believes the educational component of the program plays an important role in helping young people embark on a farming or ranching career.

“There is a lot of access to production information but with the increased financial risk and volatility in agriculture today, understanding the financial side of things is more important than ever,” he says. “The risks are greater and the effect of not managing those risks is also greater. Our goal is to provide access to information that helps the participants do a better job of preparing a business plan and monitoring their own financial progress. It’s very realworld oriented and it’s self-directed so the participant can do it at his or her own pace. We think it’s a great program.” Presented in an online format, AgBiz Planner guides participants through a variety of business topics tailored to production agriculture. Content for the college-level course was developed by internationally respected agricultural economist Dr. David Kohl. Learning modules include: Megatrends of Agriculture; Strategic Business Planning; Preparing for Your Lender; Constructing a Balance Sheet; Constructing an Income Statement and Cash Flow Projection; Understanding Lending Decisions; Farm Business Factors and Benchmarks; Growth and Transition Management; Personal Financial Management; and Communication, Ethics and Leadership.

Through his involvement with AgStart, Metzen has witnessed a pay-off that goes beyond providing credit to young farmers and ranchers. “I have definitely seen young people growing in terms of thinking further ahead in their businesses,” he says. “They’re much more aware of the costs associated with their business plans and what it takes to be profitable. AgBiz Planner takes the credit aspect of the program a step further by providing the tools to track their progress and evaluate the financial factors involved.”

For Metzen and Frontier Farm Credit, it all comes down to helping customers be successful. And that, he says, is an integral role a committed agricultural lender can play in launching the next generation of America’s farmers and ranchers.

“After all,” Metzen concludes, “Their future is our future.” For more information on AgStart and AgBiz Planner, visit with the folks at your local Frontier Farm Credit office.