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5 questions with Todd Schnabel, loan officer and rancher in North Dakota

Q: What is your role in agriculture today?

I am a loan officer/branch manager for First Community Credit Union in Wishek, N.D. The largest part of my loan portfolio is agricultural, but I also work with small business, commercial and consumer loans. I am also involved on the production side of agriculture, managing a cow/calf operation on my family farm located near Lehr, N.D.

Q: How has agriculture shaped your life?

I grew up on the farm my great-grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900s and have been around agriculture my entire life. Some days I didn't feel so lucky being a farm kid when it was 90 degrees in July sitting on an open-station windrower swathing grain all day! The bugs and grain dust definitely built character.

My parents encouraged me to attend college and see what I thought after that, as they knew how difficult it was to stay afloat during the farm crisis of the late '80s. Dad let me purchase 10 bred heifers that he agreed to feed while I was gone. My cattle addiction grew from there. I attended North Dakota State University in the fall of 1989. One of the best decisions I made there was joining Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity. Being surrounded by young men who also had a passion for agriculture definitely helped me hone my skills during my college years.

After college, I joined the workforce instead of going directly back to the farm. I worked in sales at John Deere and New Holland dealerships for 13 years, but I never strayed too far from home so I could continue helping on the farm. In 2001, my wife Tanya, our two daughters and I moved to my family farmstead after my parents retired, and we started increasing our cattle herd. In 2007, I became the loan officer/branch manager with FCCU in the Wishek branch office. Working daily with farmers, ranchers and small business owners to help them achieve their dreams and goals is the most satisfying part of my job.

Q: What excites you about your community?

Wishek, in southcentral North Dakota, has around 1,000 people, and it is thriving. We have many businesses that smaller towns within a 50-mile radius don't have, including two major farm equipment dealerships, two auto dealers, a community hospital/clinic and a skilled nursing facility, along with almost every other business you need to live comfortably. What really excites me is the number of young families who have decided to make Wishek their home and raise their families here. Some have come back to take over a family farming operation, while others have found a professional job in town or work remotely while living here. We raise some great kids in small-town North Dakota, and I am happy to see some of that talent coming back to contribute to the community.

Q: What is your favorite home-cooked meal?

Our ancestors who settled in Wishek and the surrounding area were Germans from Russia. A large part of that heritage is dough foods. I grew up in a family of pretty terrific cooks who carried on that tradition, including knoephla, dumplings and strudels. My wife makes some pretty awesome dumplings with either chicken or beef tips or gravy. If I am in charge of cooking, it is a nice, thick ribeye steak, grilled medium rare, and a baked potato. We still celebrate our German/Russian heritage every year on the second Wednesday in October with Sauerkraut Day, when Wishek businesses provide free wieners, mashed potatoes and kraut to all that come from far and wide.

Q: If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?

I have been around many talented people who have instructed, corrected and encouraged me throughout my life, including my parents. I had teachers in high school who set me straight when I needed to be and college professors who encouraged me. I have worked with some great people who were very knowledgeable and not afraid to share their expertise. If I had to pick one, though, it would be my dad Clifford. He was a Korean War veteran, farmer and rancher. He was diagnosed with diabetes soon after he came home from the military and lived with the condition for almost 60 years. He continued to farm and ranch through the ups and downs of the economy. He also donated his time to many boards and organizations, always trying to make things better for his family and community. He taught me the value of a hard day of work and to give back where you can.

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