Loan Preparation for New and Beginning Farmers promotional graphic

Webinar Series: Loan Preparation for New and Beginning Farmers

March 7, 2021 - Chris Wendel, Chad Zagar, Jennifer Whitford, David Russ, Steve Kluemper, <>, Mary Donnell, <>, and Jamie Rahrig

Are you new to the world of lending? Is the idea of taking out a loan for your new farm business a bit intimidating? Loans are an important tool for growing any business and if approached with the right groundwork, can be a beneficial part of your business development.

Available to watch online, this series provides new and beginning farmers with the tools needed to approach a lender. Four sessions spotlight representatives from three popular agricultural lenders: Greenstone Farm Credit, the USDA Farm Service Agency, and Northern Initiatives, a Michigan Good Food Fund financial partner.

In the recorded sessions, representatives from each lending organization discuss the financial and business documents needed to begin the loan process as well as financial tips for successful repayments.

Series Launch | GreenStone Farm Credit Services | Northern Initiatives | USDA Farm Service Agency

Guest Speakers | Series Facilitators

Series Launch


GreenStone Farm Credit Services


Northern Initiatives


USDA Farm Service Agency


Guest Speakers

  • Chris Wendel, Northern Initiatives: Chris Wendel is a Business Advisor with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial Institution based (CDFI) based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives provides funding and assistance to businesses throughout Michigan. They are a partner in the Michigan Good Food Fund helping to bring healthy and affordable foods to our communities. Chris has worked with hundreds of business owners in the areas of finance, marketing, and management.
  • Chad Zagar, GreenStone Farm Credit Services: Chad Zagar is the Managing Firector for Tax and Accounting at GreenStone Farm Credit Services, one of America’s largest rural lenders and the country’s seventh largest association in the Farm Credit System. Chad oversees a network of accounting experts and has lead audit, review, and consulting services throughout this career.
  • Jennifer Whitford, GreenStone Farm Credit Services: Jennifer Whitford serves as a Vice President of Traditional Lending at GreenStone’s Alma branch. Her career started as a Credit Analyst in 2003, transitioning into a lending role in 2009. She works with members providing them the financial products and services they need in their farming operations. Jennifer enjoys working with her customers to assist them in finding solutions to fit their individual financing needs. While she works with a variety of farms, her expertise is working with traditional row crop customers. A 2001 graduate of Michigan State University holding a degree in AgriBusiness Management, Jennifer also has a Specialization in Environmental Economics. She is still active with the college and is currently serving as President on the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association Board, representing GreenStone as an At Large Board Member. Jennifer and her husband, Eric, are raising their two young sons on a small cash grain farm near Ashley, Michigan.
  • David Russ, Farm Service Agency: Russ current serves as the Michigan Farm Service Agency’s Farm Loan Chief. In this capacity, he is responsible for policy development, implementation and oversight of FSA-Michigan’s $800 million agricultural loan portfolio consisting of more than 3,000 farmers throughout Michigan. While serving as Farm Loan Chief, Mr. Russ has overseen the loan making activities of more than 18,000 loans totaling approximately $2.7 billion in loans and loan guarantees. In all, Mr. Russ has more than 29 years of federal government loan administration experience serving a wide variety of agricultural interests.
  • Steve Kluemper, Agristrategies: Steve Kluemper founded AgriStrategies LLC in 2019. AgriStrategies LLC assists agricultural producers, processors and suppliers with improving their cash flow, profitability and financial management by helping them communicate their vision for their company’s future, manage their business and especially their finances, facilitate discussions with lenders, vendors and investors, analyze decisions that need to be made, and use independent perspectives to run their business. Steve, grew up in this growing, 50-year old farm family and has worked in agriculture his entire career.


Series Facilitators

  • Florencia Colella, MSU Extension: Florencia Colella is a Farm Business Management Educator with Michigan State University Extension. Born and raised in Argentina to an Italian family of farmers, butchers, accountants, and small business owners, she is also a proud MSU alumna. She holds a BS in agronomy and a MS in ag, food and resource economics, and has worked with universities, government organizations and private companies in the past. She is a project manager, teacher, and facilitator. Her goal is to help agribusinesses and policy makers make informed decisions through the collection, management and dissemination of trustworthy, localized data and information. Her main areas of focus are recordkeeping, tax planning, business analysis, impact evaluation, development, food chains, marketing, information technologies applied to management, and creativity and leadership in agri-businesses, including the role of minorities in farm ownership and operation.
  • Mary Donnell, Capital Impact Partners: Mary Donnell is with Capital Impact Partners, a national Community Development Financial Institution. Mary is the Program Manager of the Michigan Good Food Fund, which is a $30 million fund providing financing and technical assistance to Michigan good food enterprises. Mary has extensive experience in the value-added produce and hydroponic greenhouse industries as well as in economic development building communities of opportunity. She has a B.A. in Zoology, an M.S. in Horticulture, and an M.B.A.
  • Jae Gerhart, MSU Extension & Product Center: Jae Gerhart is the MSU Extension Local Foods Coordinator and Innovation Counselor with the MSU Product Center. Jae’s goal is to help local farmers make more transactions. She works primarily with first-generation specialty crop growers who seek to expand their sales from direct-to-consumer markets into wholesale, providing education, networking, and scale-appropriate market development for farmers in and around Washtenaw County.
  • Jinnifer Ortquist, MSU Extension: Jinnifer Ortquist, MS, CFLE, CHRS, has been with MSU Extension for 15 years. She is a Senior Extension Educator within the MSU Extension Financial and Homeownership Education Statewide Team. She is a HUD Certified Housing Counselor and holds numerous NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling content certifications.
  • Jamie Rahrig, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems & Product Center: Jamie Rahrig manages the Michigan Good Food Fund at Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and is an Innovation Counselor with the MSU Product Center and MSU Extension. In her role, Jamie provides business coaching to good food businesses statewide from farm to fork with a goal of providing equitable access to healthy and affordable food.


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