Nearly 100 years ago, the Farm Credit Act was ratified by Congress. The first-ever loan made from that fledgling system went to a farmer in Larned.
Thursday, about 30 miles from that site, the ribbon was cut on American Ag Credit’s newest location at 10th and Patton in Great Bend. It was the culmination of months of effort that started with a ground breaking March 6.
“The biggest difference today is we have this new building,” said Roger Bastrow, AAC executive vice president and chief executive officer. Although there was no snow back in March, it was a bitter cold spring morning.
Encompassing nearly 7,000 square feet, the branch includes a conference room that is available for public use, Bastrow said. The state-of-the-art facility is designed to meet the needs of the staff, customers and the entire community.
Total initial employment is anticipated at seven, with the facility housing lending, appraisal and crop insurance staff.
“This is just an amazing project,” said Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters. The AAC office is a major contribution to the local financial landscape.
The ceremony drew a large crowd to the AAC branch. It included Ag Credit employees, business leaders, Chamber of Commerce ambassadors, city officials and others. Also present were representatives of the various firms that designed and built the structure.
“Great Bend is proud to have a presence in Great Bend,” said Jerold Harris, retired president and CEO of U.S. Ag Bank and part of the team that helped bring AAC to town. AAC does have a location in Larned.
There are 80-some farm credit associations in the United States and AAC is in the top five, Harris said. It has branches in Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, California and elsewhere.
And, he said, it is part of a rich tradition. The Farm Credit Act was approved in 1916. Today, collectively, they handle a third of the agricultural credit in the county with over 500,000 customers.
The first farm credit loan in the United States in Pawnee County in 1917 and it was for just under $5,000. So, Harris said, there is heritage here.
In fact, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the farm credit system, agricultural leaders from all over the United States gathered in Central Kansas 1966. American AgCredit asked those leaders to bring information to put in a time capsule that would be opened at the 100th anniversary.
Plans are being made for a celebration to open that capsule. Some of the forecasts made then may be spot on and other may have missed the mark. “The future of agriculture is difficult to predict,” Harris said.
That is in about a year and a half, Harris said. For now, “we are preparing for the next century with this new building.”