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F&M Bank: Supporting Farming Students

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Raising a baby pig from infancy to preparation for the state fair can be an expensive process. Sophomore Cienna Auletti of St. Mary’s High School knows this as she walks to her back yard and cleans the stall of her pig, Peppa, who she is raising as part of her involvement with Future Farmers of America. The costs of shelter, feed, not to mention general care and veterinarian checkups, start to add up. Most don’t realize that raising a farm animal incurs expenses or may not understand what goes into the process.

For students who participate in organizations such as FFA and 4H, the cost can be a hefty investment that families might not always have the start-up money to cover. Because of those situations, F&M Bank created a program to assist students to learn about financial literacy and invest in their farming projects. Since 2019 alone, F&M has helped more than 900 students with over $1.1 million in funds.

Students and families frequently have some basic, important questions when deciding if it’s a right fit to invest in an agricultural project.

What is financial literacy?
Financial literacy is having the knowledge and understanding to help make smart financial decisions. F&M Bank’s first vice president of retail lending, Gary Spears, shares that for FFA or 4 H students, the cost of ag projects can be expensive, but if managed properly, students can learn life lessons and see a return on their hard work through FFA.

How does F&M Bank help FFA or 4H students?
“We have a program in which our bankers visit the schools and meet with the FFA and 4H advisors, students and parents to explain the program and give the students an opportunity to participate,” said Spears. F&M Bank representatives describe to students how establishing a loan can build credit, teach responsibility and help ag students learn how to manage, advance and build their initial investments.

What does the program look like?
Let’s use the scenario of a pig. An FFA student breaks down the budget of what it will cost to raise a pig. Estimating a total of $2,000, F&M Bank provides them with a loan, which the student, with the help of their family, will pay back interest free. While raising the animal, no loan payments are required. The idea is to go to the county fair or auction and sell the animal for a profit. If the student sells the animal, for example, at a total of $4,000, the family and student pay back the original $2,000 loan from F&M Bank and retain the profit. Examples such as this are common and many families return the next year to start their next project. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” said Spears.

How does this help students after raising an animal?
Students have now learned how to complete a budget, prepare an application, sign loan documents, manage loan funds and learn to repay debt. Often, students will also open a free Jr. Savers or teen checking account. Each of these steps helps the student learn good financial habits.

What if parents and students aren’t sure where to begin?
Spears recommends that parents can learn with their child about financial literacy. He often sees that parents are hesitant to ask for help because they don’t want to appear unknowledgeable about money management. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your money, you should ask questions,” he noted. He reminds families that part of learning about where our money goes is establishing good financial habits early, and that starts with the willingness to get more information. F&M Bank also has other programs that help students. Money Smart, a program offered through the FDIC, features free age-appropriate curricula that promote financial understanding and are designed for educators, with guides, student handouts and PowerPoint slides.

Where’s the closest F&M Bank?
F&M Bank holds 29 branches throughout the Central Valley from regional Sacramento all the way down to Merced up and down Highway 99. Some branches are also available in the San Francisco East Bay area.

If you’d like to know more about F&M Bank’s programs that help the community or learn about financial literacy, visit