First South Farm Credit has supported farmers and agriculture since the early 1900s, but the financial institution also has a track record that goes back decades of helping people who want to purchase hunting property and other rural land for recreational purposes.
When buying a piece of rural property, it’s important to work with a lender who understands the specific risks, rewards and opportunities of this kind of investment, says Ben Sanders, vice president of business development for First South Farm Credit.
AT A GLANCE
Primary product/service: A financial institution that specializes in financing land, country homes and agriculture
Top executives: John Barnard, CEO;
Tim Losavio, Louisiana Division President
Year founded: 1916
Phone:  658-0596
“Our expertise is financing rural land,” Sanders says. “Hunting properties, large timber tracts, smaller land lots to build on. We offer long-term financing with competitive rates on all of these.”
Part of the national Farm Credit System, First South Farm Credit has provided farmers and rural landowners customized lending vehicles since 1916. The bank has 50 locations across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It provides short, medium and long-term loans for a variety of agricultural needs, including capital for crops, livestock and timber. Loan packages can be tailored to fit almost any type of land improvement project or agricultural investment.
The bank also helps investors who aren’t part of the agricultural sector find opportunities there. Sanders says the bank has helped many outdoor enthusiasts who want to own their own piece of land in the country structure loans that take advantage of the land’s assets, namely timber.
“People see our name, First South Farm Credit, and assume all we do is finance farms. It’s true, we have a long history of supporting farmers and agriculture, but it’s not all we do,” Sanders says. “Many of our customers are business owners, plant workers, and professionals who live in the city and want to purchase land for recreation.”
Sanders adds that clients who work with First South will usually seek out the institution for future purchases. “Typically, our clients are not transactional. They stay with us, and we build relationships with them.”
Local entrepreneur John Stagg has had a business relationship with First South Farm Credit for the past 20 years, first working with the financial institution in the early 2000s. “They were my first choice when I knew I was going to buy recreational property,” says Stagg, who recently worked with First South to buy recreational land in Oklahoma. “It was a simple process. They handled everything and kept me informed the whole time.”
While a traditional bank is able to handle the transaction, Stagg says, First South Farm Credit “has a better knowledge of that type of property. That’s what they deal with every day.”
One important note about First South, Sanders says, is that the financial institution is a cooperative, meaning it is owned by its borrowers. “What sets First South apart from other businesses is that instead of returning our profits to investors, we return profits to our customers. It’s what we call our patronage refund program,” he says. “And it’s one of many reasons people like doing business with us. Who doesn’t like getting a check from their bank?”