Small Footprint, Big Impact

In the center of California’s scenic San Joaquin Valley, a dedicated Farm Credit association with a small footprint is having a big impact on its communities.

Covering just two agricultural counties, along with small parts of two others, Yosemite Farm Credit is a $3.7 billion association primarily financing dairy and almond farmers through its six local branches. YFC’s 175 employees embrace the organization’s core values, including key tenets like service, respect and reliability, delivering back-to-back years of strong financial growth.

“We have a high concentration of members in a compact area, so our employees are able to build meaningful relationships with their customers, which in turn has rewarded us with strong returns,” said CEO Tracy Sparks.

YFC’s is a close-knit community, and the organization is embedded in the local ag industry far deeper than the loans it delivers. Each year, YFC donates $50,000 to local fairs, and smaller amounts to each of the more than 1,000 youth exhibitors to help defray the cost of raising their animals.

Brendan Ronayne, VP, CoBank; Jelina Seibert, Chief Administrative and Human Resources Officer, Yosemite Farm Credit; Tracy Sparks, CEO, Yosemite Farm Credit; Steve Mizuno, SVP, Yosemite Farm Credit; Dr. Oluwarotimi Odeh, Program Director, Rolland Starn Endowed Chair, and Professor, California State University, Stanislaus; Ridge Easton, VP, CoBank

“FFA and 4H help develop important leadership skills, and we think this is the best way to show our support for agriculture and ag leadership, and ultimately the future of our industry,” said Sparks.

YFC provides scholarships to students at all 37 of its high schools who are pursuing ag careers, and other ag-related programs through CoBank’s Sharing Success donation matching program, each year asking senior managers to identify community needs, with donations rotating through the territory’s counties.

Money is just part of the picture. Demonstrating their deep connection to their community, YFC employees are eager to deliver scholarship checks and spend hours at local fairs and ag programs. In one notable initiative, a team of YFC employees partner with students at nearby California State University, Stanislaus who are taking an agricultural entrepreneurship course, mentoring them to develop a business plan and faux “investor” presentation for a real-world, ag-related enterprise they conceptualize. Beyond encouraging ag innovation overall, YFC has hired several of these high-caliber students after graduation.

“By supporting these students each year, we’re encouraging the next generation of ag leaders,” said Steve Mizuno, SVP of Credit Administration and an enthusiastic mentor. “It’s extremely rewarding to see a mentee establish the business they’ve created or go on to another successful career in ag.”

YFC also supports a rotating list of local non-profit organizations beyond agriculture, including food banks, disaster relief initiatives, a local home for youth grieving a loss, a food truck that feeds the unfortunate and a local crisis center.

“We live here, we work here and we’re invested here, and it’s important that our members know that we care about their community and the issues that are important to them,” said Sparks.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2021 Annual Report.