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Growing Forward Makes a Difference for Young Farmer

Young farmer Tom McDow gains the tools to grow his operation with the help of Farm Credit Mid-America.

// Cooperative Stories, Customer Stories

One of Tom McDow’s earliest memories is riding a tractor with his dad and granddad on the family’s farm in Tipton County, Tennessee. In high school, Tom would come home from football practice to help his dad, instilling a strong work ethic that led him back to his roots in agriculture after college.

When Tom graduated with his degree in agribusiness, agriculture was experiencing a period of high yields and strong commodity prices. But by the time Tom had the opportunity to start his own operation, the industry had entered a downward cycle. Adding to the challenge, he established his operation on land with poor-quality soil that produced low yields. Still, he reflects on those initial years of his operation with gratitude. 

“I'm very thankful I came into farming during that cycle because I think it helped teach me what to expect management-wise and not to assume everything's always going to be easy,” Tom said. “Because nine times out of 10, it's not easy. You have to figure out a way to be profitable and successful.”

Tom had a solid foundation with his education, community connections and his father as a mentor, but quickly realized he needed more support for his operation to grow. As a young farmer starting out, Tom didn’t know about all the available tools and resources. That’s when Tom learned about the Growing Forward® program through his Farm Credit Mid-America financial officer.    

Growing Forward is Farm Credit Mid-America’s program for young and beginning farmers. Designed and exclusively offered to producers up to age 35 or those with fewer than 10 years of farming experience, Growing Forward reduces barriers to entry for new farmers by providing access to the capital and financial education they need to build a thriving operation.

“I went from farming land that no one wanted to work, producing maybe 20 to 50 bushels of beans per acre,” said Tom. “Today, I operate 1,400 acres and grow corn, cotton and soybeans. I could not have done it without Farm Credit Mid-America by my side, working with me and telling me the possible outcomes of each decision I needed to make.” 

Growing Forward helped Tom dig deeper into the financial side of his operation and strategize for the future by setting one-, five- and 10-year goals. The program also gave him the opportunity to meet and learn from other young and beginning farmers of different backgrounds who were on similar journeys.

“It really helped me decide how I want my operation to grow and get different perspectives,” Tom explained. "Farm Credit Mid-America is a huge advocate for first-generation farmers. They're not just looking for operations that have been doing business with them for years—they're also looking to grow with brand-new operations."

Click here to learn more about the Growing Forward program and how to get involved.



Farm Credit Mid-America territory includes Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. Arkansas includes Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Desha (northeast of the White River), Greene, Lee, Mississippi, Phillips, Poinsett, and St. Francis counties. Missouri includes Carter, Ripley and Wayne counties. Kentucky excludes Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall and McCracken counties. Ohio excludes Crawford, Hancock, Lucas, Marion, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Wood and Wyandot counties. We serve all counties in Indiana and Tennessee. 

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