Here are a few highlights from the 2012 survey: Nearly 145,000 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, those sales totaled more than $1.3 billion, which is up 8% from the 2007 survey. Organic sales are small, accounting for just 0.8% of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. However, sales in 2012 ($3.12 billion) were close to double the sales in 2007 ($1.7 billion).USDA recently released its latest Census of Agriculture report, providing official statistics for the growth in the small agriculture segment that we’ve all been seeing over the last 5 years.

You’ve reported this growth, too. More than half of the dealers surveyed in our Rural Lifestyle Dealer Business Trends & Outlook report say the rural lifestyle market has grown 5-19% over the last 5 years.

The equipment industry is targeting this opportunity with manufacturers like Kubota announcing new models in its compact and utility tractor lines and Yanmar introducing new sub-compact tractor models. John Deere is expecting sales of turf and utility equipment to be up 5% this year.

With this projected growth, the finance industry is taking notice. In a recent Equipment Leasing & Finance Magazine article, Andy Fishburn, vice president of government relations for the Equipment Leasing and Finance Assn. (ELFA), and Richard Shanahan, director of government relations, share this about opportunities for compact equipment: “Specialty crop farmers account for 12.7% of harvested acreage and 46.9% of total crop value in the United States, and their use of specific equipment types or smaller tractors make them an ideal candidate for equipment leasing or financing.”

So, each end of the spectrum is ready: the number of rural lifestylers is growing right along with the equipment choices available to manage small farms and large properties. And, you have the “best seat in the house,” as the one that connects customers with the equipment they want and the money they need. Are you ready to be the financing partner your customers deserve?

You may be fortunate in that your manufacturer may offer easy and attractive financing arrangements. However, if you’re looking for new options, check out ELFA’s searchable database at And, just as you build relationships with customers, do the same with your current or new financing contacts. “Working to establish a relationship with local financial companies can help a dealer gain a competitive edge by having multiple ways to help a customer obtain funding for equipment,” says Shanahan of ELFA.

Then, make sure the people on your team who handle credit know more than just how to fill in the blanks on the credit application. For example, if someone on your team has encountered a tough question or unique situation, make sure they share it with the rest of the team. ELFA offers other resources, such as a glossary of terms, in case you’re stumped with a question.

Regardless of the operation’s size or even if the property is only for recreation, purchasing equipment is a business decision. Find every way you can to be a trusted business partner and seize the growth that’s right outside your dealership’s door.