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USDA’s Youth Loan Program Attracts Young Women to Farming

By Devon Kenny

Five Roses Farm is not your average farming operation. Leading the charge on this charming homestead are five girls who give everything they have, and a little more, to keep the operation running smoothly. At this scenic farm in Madison County in NY, the Cranwells are dad Clyde, mom Kristi, and daughters: Amanda (15), Emily (14), Megan (13), Haley (10) and Kaycee (7).

Cranwell sisters showing off their hard work.

Cranwell sisters showing off their hard work.

The farm is perched on a hill directly across from SUNY Morrisville College. Clyde teaches at the school and has been involved in agriculture most of his life, along with his wife Kristi, who works for the Oneida County Cooperative Extension. Originally from Kansas, the Cranwells have always been interested in farming and the oldest three girls were given the opportunity to make their own way through the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Youth Loan Program administered by the Marcy FSA farm loan office. This program allows for young adults aged 10 to 21 to apply for a loan (up to $5,000) to finance income-producing agricultural projects such as buying livestock and equipment or paying operating expenses. The applicants are given the opportunity to develop and implement these projects with guidance from a project advisor (4H leader, FFA teacher, etc.). The loans are put on a repayment schedule that teaches the youths how to coordinate finances, operational planning and animal management. Haley, who turned 10 in November, is looking forward to getting her first FSA youth loan in 2015.

Hog training.

Hog training.

The Cranwell girls are two years into the FSA youth loan program. With the loan funds they have purchased several animals including beef cattle and swine. The program has taught them the importance of not only animal husbandry but money management. Their cows are so well cared for that they have won cash prizes in various shows across the region. With their winnings the girls reinvest in the project by paying entry fees into other shows and buying needed supplies.

They have participated in shows this past spring and summer including the New York State Fair and even the occasional out of state show. Their beef cattle were purchased as 6 –month old calves in early fall and are kept through the winter, then ready for the show season in the summer of the following year. The animals put on an astounding 4 pounds per day being fed a ration of grain and forage. Once the animals are about 18 months old, the cattle are sold to a local restaurant called The Copper Turret. The restaurant sources many locally grown products and Five Roses Farm is featured on its menu. The girls keep the income from the sale of the beef as a means of paying back their FSA loans—but usually don’t frequent the restaurant too soon after their prize animals get sent.

At Five Roses Farm, the steers sit on sturdy legs and have massive bulk and a sweet disposition. These animals finish at between 1,300 and are 1,400 pounds and are bigger than many of their show competitors. The Cranwell girls treat their animals with respect and care. Kristi praises her girls and is happy they have the opportunity to learn how to raise their own animals and get to know their way around a checkbook as well. The girls make all the decisions on their animals and when it comes time to pay the grain bill, they write the checks themselves. The FSA youth loan program allows young people to gain practical experience by having them keep accurate records of income and expenses in regards to the loan funds.

Pampered cow getting blow dried.

Pampered cow getting blow dried.

In addition to cattle, the Cranwells also have several pigs they show and sell that the girls purchased using FSA youth loan funds. The pigs are almost as pampered as the steers and are taken for walks every evening to help train them to be calm and well-mannered in the judging arena. Surprisingly, the pigs are not tied or haltered in any way. They are guided by gentle taps from show sticks the girls use to keep them on course.

There is an assortment of other livestock on the farm including chickens, horses, rabbits, and a dog. Clyde and Kristi have said they don’t know how much longer they can keep going to fairs because they always come home with more animals than they left with. Having five girls giving you the eye must make it hard to say no. We wish them luck for many seasons to come.

For more information on youth loans, contact Laura Shoemaker (Farm Loan Officer) at the Marcy USDA Farm Service Agency office at 315-736-3316, your local FSA office, or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

Devon Kenny is a Program Technician at the Marcy USDA Farm Service Agency office. She can be reached at 315-736-3316.

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