Current State of Economics of Southwest Michigan Blueberries
Sara Trattles, Schoolcraft, MI, defender her thesis, Current State of Economics of Southwest Michigan Blueberries” on April 8. She is a Financial Services Officer for GreenStone Farm Credit Services and manages a portfolio of more than 175 customers. Sara analyzes and evaluates loan requests for farmers’ financial needs including operation, term debt and real estate transactions. Trattles was a spring graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.
GreenStone Farm Credit Services is one of America’s largest rural lenders and the country's seventh largest association in the Farm Credit System. They own and manage more than $8 billion in assets and serve over 24,000 members with 36 branches throughout Michigan and northeast Wisconsin.
GreenStone provides financial services to the agricultural industry - including short, intermediate and long-term loans, equipment and building leases, life insurance, crop insurance, accounting and tax services. They also specialize in residential and country home loans, and provide lending products for the purchase, improvement, construction or refinance of residences along with financing future home sites and recreational land.
In her thesis, Trattles built an economic model using historical data for Michigan blueberries. The Southwest Michigan blueberry industry is experiencing stress from global production and increased costs of production. A sensitivity analysis was used to show the effects of changes to some of the largest expenses labor and chemicals and also sensitivity to income fluctuations.
“This research is important to the Michigan economy and agricultural lending institutions with loan portfolios that support blueberry production. The majority of this production is in Southwest Michigan and along the Lake Michigan shore line,” Trattles said in her thesis. “With this financial exposure, it is important to understand the nature of the blueberry market.”
Trattles’ thesis indicated the stress experienced by the blueberry industry is caused by too much supply and not enough demand for the product. The current blueberry market makes it difficult for growers to generate profit.
Trattles’ research is specific to the everyday work she does with blueberry growers. She enjoys working with these customers and hopes this research can add value to their operations.
Dr. Keith Harris, Assistant Professor and Trattles’ thesis advisor, said, “It is interesting how a crop that once did not garner much attention has caught the attention of the consuming public. Sara’s work provides us with additional insight into a burgeoning market.”
The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/39571.