The pickup truck’s engine hummed as Jason Saylor drove with his 4-year-old daughter to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. “Being a farmer, you’re land rich but cash poor,” his voice rumbling low and slow with the background noise.
The outdoors has always held a draw for Saylor, the oxygen rich in his lungs, the open spaces that create fruitful opportunity. The physical work that leaves a body tired but fulfilled at day’s end.
He started out as a civil engineer designing and building roads, dams, bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure. While he enjoyed the split of office and outdoor work, a part of him still wanted to be more connected to the earth.
When he married the love of his life, Rhonda, in 2002, all the pieces started coming together. She brought a rich history of family farming to their life – 423 acres of land in Liverpool that has been in Rhonda’s family for over 140 years.
For five years, Saylor helped his father-in-law, Sidney Witmer, farm on weekends. After a decade of working as a civil engineer, he transitioned into full-time farming on Witmer’s family farm.
He took a slow breath. “I’m glad I did it.” Initially, it was less lucrative than his prior job – but it was worth every penny.
“You directly see the fruits of your labor. It’s very rewarding work because you see exactly what you put into it, and that’s what you get out of it. “Same way with raising kids, I guess. You gradually see the crops or the livestock growing up until, at the end, you see the final product. You see it the whole way through. And when it all comes together and it works at the end, it’s satisfying.”
Jason and Rhonda have two children – Maya, 4, and Sasha, 1. “Maya planted a perfect row of sunflowers last spring in our garden,” he said, the joy of fatherhood in his laughter.
On the farm, the Saylors raise beef from start to finish. All the calves are born and raised on the farm, then brought to market. The farm includes two other pullet houses and several barns.
They wanted to build a pullet house on their farm (where they would raise chicks), but this is where the farmer’s lot of being “land rich but cash poor” comes into greater focus. Saylor needed loans to complete the entire $600,000 project.
Fortunately, with the loan SEDA-COG’s Business Finance Department offered them, Saylor’s land could be leveraged as his equity contribution. Being “cash poor” was not a disadvantage with Saylor’s abundant land.
SEDA-COG’s Business Finance Department partnered with Tompkins VIST Bank, splitting the project cost with their respective loans to complete the funding package. For SEDA-COG, this included a $300,000 Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority/Small Business First loan.
The loan’s fixed low-interest rate helps keep the farm operation flowing smoothly and offers stability when other factors such as weather and commodity prices fluctuate, Saylor said.
“Having the help of the loan program, the low interest rate helps us to know what our payments are going to be, knowing it’s not going to skyrocket in a couple years. Having the lower interest reduces our monthly payments and gives us more cash flow to help us to operate,” Saylor said.
The funding also created a job for another employee to work on the farm.
Rhonda’s family is the fifth generation on the farm. “I am thrilled we were able to use this very helpful program and to see the legacy of our farm continue in operation,” she said. “It means a great deal because it has been in our family so long, and we have many special memories here.”
Even at their young ages, their daughters are fascinated with the farm and its animals. “My oldest daughter already appreciates the connection the farm offers to her ancestors,” Rhonda said. “I’m happy we’re able to give our kids the same opportunities and experiences that I was fortunate to have growing up on a farm and pass it down through our family. It has a very special meaning.”
SEDA-COG’s Business Finance staff can help you find the loan that’s right for you. Contact us today to start a partnership at 570-524-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.