Experience on the farm aids job at the bank

Jon Christiansen, of Durham, believes he could be part of the trend at Citizens State Bank in Canton, and also at other banks, to hire young farmers with bank training as loan officers.

It seems to be a win-win arrangement. Farmers can talk to somebody familiar with their needs, and the banks have spokesmen versed both in agriculture and banking.

Christiansen, 32, grew up in farming with his parents, Gor?don and Pat Christiansen, and his grandparents, Irvin and Muriel Christiansen, all of Durham. The house built by his great-grandparents in 1918 still stands.

He went to Hillsboro High School, where the vocational agriculture instructor, Earl Wineinger, taught him so well in animal science that the course he took at Kansas State Univer?sity almost was a review.

After graduating from K-State with a degree in agricultural engineering and a minor in animal science, Christiansen worked for several years in western Kansas as an engineer with Schlum?berger, a French oil-field service company.

?Then I came back to farm with my dad, it?s been six or seven years,? Christiansen said.

He described their operation as ?kind of the usual, wheat, beans, milo?and we background cattle, no cows or calves.?

Christiansen?s brother and sister have moved away. Brother Jeff, 39, and wife Denyse train cutting horses in Weatherford, Texas. Sister Jodi, 35, and husband Brett live with their two daughters at Dighton.

Christiansen said he and his father like to buy 400- to 600-pound crossbred or black calves through an order buyer, Gary Christiansen, a cousin, or they sometimes buy at auction.

Many of the calves come out of Missouri. They graze the cattle on native grass, growing them to 800 pounds.

Whether he?s talking about himself or his customers, Christiansen said grain yields and prices both have been good for the past two years.

He could have continued in full-time farming, but an old friend, Trevin Prieb, decided he needed another ag loan officer at Citizens State Bank. The two had been at K-State together.

Christiansen found that by coming to Citizens State he was joining a group of officers with an ag background. Four are former ag educators.

?That has been very helpful in teaching me about being on the other side of the agriculture loan business,? he said.

Christiansen said many of the farmers who come in also have been excellent teachers as well as friends. They are good businessmen as a group and tend to know their operations very well, he said.

Many of them maintain a line of credit for operational loans every year, he said.

Christiansen said these farmers have their management programs together so well it can be a pleasure to work with them.

Asked about young people who might want to get started as farmers, Christiansen said it would be difficult to the point of nearly being impossible for them without the help of family.

Some land in the area is selling for as high as $4,000 an acre, he said, and that makes it prohibitive for a young person to buy any with the hope of farming it.

?They need help,? Christian?sen said.

Even established farmers sometimes need help financially to be as productive as possible. With the good income in agriculture the past couple of years, Christiansen said many farmers are looking at what they might do with the improved income.

They may be looking at paying down debt or simply improving their liquidity, he said.

Or, they may be looking at expansion. Usually, Christiansen said, those looking at expansion have been keeping their eyes open for opportunity, and move ahead when a particular piece of crop land comes up for sale or grass comes up for rent.

He said he believes this trend will continue for some time because agricultural prices for the next few years look promising if production continues as it has been.

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