The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC Partner: Jeff Bank
Its charter may date back to 1913, but Jeff Bank is an example of progressive community banking at its best. With 12 branches in Sullivan County, augmented by online banking, Jeff Bank offers a full menu of personal and business deposit and lending services that rival any national money center bank.
Formerly known as The First National Bank of Jeffersonville, Jeff Bank grew up in an era when Sullivan County flourished with tourism and there were at least eleven small community banks operating in the region. The local banking world was a fairly stable one, even though the decline of the resort industry in the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II the 1940s. Post war there was a boom for the resort industry, but between the 1960s and 1980s, one by one, acquisitions and mergers reconfigured the banking scene nationally, leaving many institutions managed by out-of-region headquarters, being ‘community banks’ only in name because they operated within the community. That too was the case in Sullivan County and only First National Bank of Jeffersonville remained as the region’s lone true community bank. By the end of 2012 when the bank converted from a national to a New York State charter, it formally took on the name of Jeff Bank, which it had been using since 2008.
Jeff Bank has a strong commitment to the communities it serves, supporting several tourism, chamber of commerce, educational, and economic development organizations in Sullivan and Orange Counties. And, while it lends to a variety of small businesses in diverse sectors, it has a special fondness for those in agriculture. It doesn’t hurt that its Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer, Tatiana (Tanya) Hahn is a farmer herself, and is not unfamiliar with the highs and lows that farmers face. With Hahn, HVADC, and in particular HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson, have partnered to support local farms and producers through multiple efforts.
The fact that Johnson and Hahn were recognized by CCE Sullivan County as Business/Corporate Partner Friend at their annual meeting last October should come as no surprise to those who know the work the pair contributed when crisis hit the dairy farmers in the county. In 2018, when Marcus Dairy notified six Sullivan County dairy farms that their fluid milk contracts would end, CCE Sullivan, collaborated with HVADC, Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC), Agricultural and Community Development Services LLC, Sullivan County Government, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunter’s office to create a new opportunity for the farmers. It was Hahn who acted as a facilitator of the meetings with the farmers who had lost their contracts, and hosted the meetings at Jeff Bank.
Out of the ashes, Ma & Pa Creamery LLC, a farmer controlled dairy plant, emerged winning a $93,489 grant from Sullivan County Government through the New York State Office of Community Renewal, creating a new opportunity for the displaced milk supply and farmers.
“Tanya was able to lend a unique perspective on both sides of the equation, as a trusted member of both the farming community and the banking community,” said Johnson. “Throughout the meetings, she was the voice of reason, mitigating all the various interests,” she continued.
Hahn has been with Jeff Bank since attending college, starting out as a part-time employee, and rising through management trainee, branch management and senior lending positions to Chief Lending Officer in 2006, and then Executive Vice President in 2016. In her “other life,” Hahn grew up on a dairy farm and now operates Hilly Acres Farm a small-scale farm specializing in beef, pork, poultry and lamb in Jeffersonville, along with her husband Andy and son Michael. The farm has been in operation for over a century, and run as a family farm since 1955, being passed down through many generations. Their beef consists of both American British White Parks and Herefords, the pigs are heritage breeds, including Tamworth's. All animals are humanely raised, with no growth hormones or antibiotics, and the farm sells primarily through farmers’ markets and by appointment at the farm. In January 2019, Hilly Acres Farm was awarded a NYS Agriculture and Markets’ Farmland Protection Implementation Grant, facilitated by Sullivan County Agriculture and Farmland Protection board, and augmented by a grant from the Delaware Highlands Conversancy to protect 233 acres. The farm’s proximity to the Village of Jeffersonville’s water supply and its soil content mix were deemed of highest importance. But last July the Hahns faced one of a farmer’s worst nightmares when the farm suffered a devastating fire which destroyed a 1800s barn, losing four hundred chickens and 300 round bales of hay. As testament to the relationships that they have made with their neighbors and customers, the community quickly rallied around the Hahns, launching a GoFundMe account to help the farm recover.
As a community bank, Jeff Bank has flexibility, and according to Hahn, “when we see something affecting our neighbors, we can step up to help in ways that people wouldn’t think a bank could. We try to think outside the box, and hopefully with my expertise, we are able to bridge the farm with the credit need to success,” she said. “We are not necessarily looking to make the loan, but rather try to help them to make the right business decision,” she continued.
Jeff Bank may be the only Ag lender in Sullivan County, but its efforts to support farms and food producers reaches wider than its branch offices and broader than providing deposit and loan products. Through partnerships with several organizations such as HVADC, the Bank has fostered individuals and agribusinesses to achieve success. Jeff Bank has had a representative on the board of Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) since the county was designated as one of the zones, with Hahn now sitting on the Board. It has also partnered with the USDA/FSA, and Catskill Mountain Keepers, among other stakeholder groups.
Hahn herself sits on the advisory committee for the Ag Revolving Loan Fund for Sullivan County which helps start up farmers and producers and those with evolving business models prepare for low interest loans, grants and other financing. She is also currently the co-chair of the Sullivan County Visitor’s Association and their Treasurer.
“We take a common sense approach to working with other organizations, which could be in an advisory position or partnering,” Hahn mentioned. Past Jeff Bank efforts with collaborating agencies and organizations have involved underwriting, holding collateral against a partner’s lending activity, and providing supportive documentation.
According to Johnson, “Jeff Bank has also been very supportive providing letters of intent for HVADC clients and other agribusinesses as they are completing the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA). In many cases, having these letters has had a real impact on the outcome of their grant applications.”
As HVADC is exploring the possibility of developing a financing institution that will offer loans and other credit services specifically for food and agricultural enterprises in the Hudson Valley and surrounding areas under the auspices of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), Jeff Bank has expressed its interest in assisting. By offering tailored resources and innovative programs that invest federal dollars alongside private sector capital, the CDFI Fund serves mission-driven financial institutions that take a market-based approach to supporting economically disadvantaged communities. With both HVADC and Jeff Bank championing that that there is diversity in the Valley’s agribusiness community with distinctive needs for financial services and access to credit, there could be collaboration in the future. “I consider farming to be the most important profession. People need to eat, so whatever we can do to support our farmers actually benefits the community as a whole.” said Hahn of the prospect of partnering on the program.
For more information about Jeff Bank’s roots in Jeffersonville, read more at https://www.jeffbank.com/the-inception/.
To learn more about HVADC’s scope of support, visit https://www.hvadc.org/who-we-can-help.
Photo Source: Jeff Bank