Ben Kasik is using a variety of resources to continually educate himself about farming, including conferences, networking, and business planning.
An Embedded Passion
Ben Kasik farms with his grandparents, Jerry and Carolyn, in Henderson, Michigan, where they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat. He began farming full-time in 2018.
“I didn’t know I wanted to farm full-time until I went away to college at Michigan State,” Ben said. “Being away that first month was so awful. I couldn’t wait to come home and help. All through the fall harvest I drove home almost every day after class to help – I couldn’t stand not being there.”
Ben graduated with his bachelor’s degree in crop and soil science and brought back his new knowledge to his home farm. His main mentor and teacher on the farm is also his coworker – his grandpa Jerry.
“My grandfather has a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom he acquired from farming his entire life,” Ben said. “He’s a well-rounded farmer, and he’s good at everything, like fixing machines, agronomy, working with people. I’m so thankful I can work and learn alongside him.”
A Trusted Lender
Ben went to his financial services officer Nicole (Nikki) Burke in the spring of 2018 to obtain an operating loan, and she not only assisted him with financing, but also introduced him to other GreenStone services.
“Every time I have a financial question or a business idea, I know I can call Nikki anytime and get help,” Ben said. “She’s always willing to give me good financial advice, and if she doesn’t know something, she points me to resources to find the answer.”
Nikki works with a number of young, beginning, and small farmers out of the Corunna branch. In her 11-year career with GreenStone, she makes it a point to reach out to her customers to share about available programs.
“I care a lot about my customers, and I want to see their businesses succeed and grow,” Nikki said. “Putting the customer first is the most important thing to GreenStone, and everyone on the team truly cares about making the experience positive for our customers.”
One of the programs she suggested trying was the GreenStone mentorship program, which pairs new farmers with more experienced producers to share knowledge and help equip them for the future of the industry.
Ben was matched with mentor Eric Blaine of Blaine Farms in St Charles, who also is a cash crop farmer. Eric brings his 21 years of knowledge to the mentorship.
“He’s a really sharp young man,” said Eric Blaine. “I like working with him. He already has a great understanding of the industry, and he just wants to fine tune his skills, which is really admirable.”
Since Ben has the leadership of his grandpa, he already has a great mentor on the farm, but like most business owners, he enjoys talking with people who have the same job.
“It’s so interesting talking to Eric, because some of the things he’s doing are so different,” Ben said. “If you take three farms within ten minutes of each other, even if it’s the same crop, everyone is doing things a little bit differently. I like bouncing off ideas from him to get his completely different perspective.”
“That’s a big part of farming,” he added. “You can never know enough. I asked my friend Tony Motz, also a farmer, why he always talked to everyone, and he said – you can always learn something from everybody.”
The next program Ben has taken advantage of is the grants from GreenStone. Each year, GreenStone commits $40,000 to young, beginning, and small farmers for the grants, which they can use toward agricultural programs and events, GreenStone services like accounting and tax services, and resources like business and farm consultants.
Ben has made use of the grant multiple times. For example, he’s attended conferences like the Great Lakes Crop Summit, attended industry meetings, and had the GreenStone tax and accounting department prepare his tax return. GreenStone has a full array of tools and services to support farmers like Ben, including new tools as a part of GreenStone's refreshed CultivateGrowth program.
“Being a young farmer, it’s nice to have someone help,” Ben said. “I like that GreenStone takes a chance on young farmers, so then we can turn around and show we’re doing our part, learning and using the resources they’re giving you.”
Ben doesn’t live far from his parents, Jerry and Ellen Kasik, and joked with them that he was going to be a bachelor farmer his whole life. Instead, when he matched with his now-wife Megan on the Farmers Only dating site, he called his mom after their first date to tell her he met the woman he was going to marry. They married in the summer of 2021.
“Our wedding happened right during wheat harvest, and I was so glad it rained, so I wasn’t thinking I could be combining wheat,” he said.
“Megan isn’t from a farm, but now she wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.“I think a farm is the best place to raise a family. There are so many opportunities for responsibility, even at a young age, and it gives you a connection to nature. Not every kid gets the chance to smell a rain coming or feel a frost melting in the spring.”
He looks forward to the future of farming with his grandpa and living with his family on the farm. As he plans for his farming future, he knows he’ll continue to use the resources available to him, as well as let other people know about them.
“I would encourage any other farmers to take advantage of these opportunities,” Ben said. “Go for it. I plan on using every resource I can, from financing, programs, grants, meetings, anything like that - where I have the chance. Without GreenStone’s assistance with getting started, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”