“Pulling in the same direction” — The power of a cooperative



Patronage, competitive rates and a spirit of working together are just a few benefits of belonging to a cooperative lender


Farming is more than a means of income for the Bolender family. It’s a lifestyle.

“It’s everything,” says Aubrey Bolender, who runs a grain and beef operation with her husband and three kids in southwest Ohio. “We wake up in the morning talking about it and right before we go to bed, we’re still talking about it. We do it because we enjoy it. We’re blessed to live this life.”

So, when it came time to find a lender eight years ago, it made sense for the Bolenders to work with a cooperative lender made up of farmers who understand their lifestyle and share their passion for it. With its cooperative model, competitive rates and strong roots in agriculture, Farm Credit Mid-America was the right fit for the Bolenders.

“They understand our way of life,” says Aubrey. “They understand the ebbs and flows of ag and they really do take into consideration where you’ve started and how far you’ve come. A lot of typical banks are only looking at certain numbers. They don’t look at the person and the progress. For a farmer, that takes a lot of the worry away.”

“They understand our way of life. They understand the ebbs and flows of ag and they really do take into consideration where you’ve started and how far you’ve come.”

Aubrey Bolender

That understanding is just one of the benefits of belonging to a cooperative like Farm Credit Mid-America. Cooperatives provide many benefits to its customers, and there’s comfort in knowing that co-op members want to see each other succeed—a fundamental value of the collective business model.

“Everyone’s pulling in the same direction,” says Daniel Smith, a Georgetown, Ky.,-based cattle farmer who, like Bolender, is a customer-member of Farm Credit Mid-America’s Advocate Council. “It benefits all of us working together.”

One major benefit available to Farm Credit Mid-America customer-owners that farmers will not find at traditional lenders is its Patronage program. Patronage is the name for the capital that a cooperative returns to its customers—and over the last five years, Farm Credit Mid-America has returned $648.5 million to Patronage-eligible customers through this program. Patronage checks are a welcome return for operators who use the funds to reinvest in their operations or pay down their loan balance further.

“It comes at a time of the year when, from a farming standpoint, your cash flow is at its lowest and you’re spending more money on crop inputs,” says Daniel, a customer for 11 years. “But it doesn’t matter what time of year you get patronage. It’s just a reflection of the whole group and how everybody’s doing.”

Aubrey adds: “You’re not going to get that with any other lender. There’s no other financial institution that we work with that you get a kickback based on the success of the co-op.”

Another additional benefit? Farm Credit Mid-America is committed to not only supporting its customers but also the communities it serves across Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee—with investments in local FFA Chapters, 4-H fairs, and local food banks—just to name a few. The cooperative is “part of the fabric of the community,” as Daniel says. And it’s that kind of collective, farmer-centered, got-your-back feel that makes Farm Credit Mid-America’s customers feel so strongly about the co-op.

“Everybody there, they know you by name, they know the kids,” Aubrey says. “It’s one of those places you look forward to going in just because of the people that are there.”