GSBLSU Favorite Class: Mega Trends of Agriculture, Rural, & Small Business Lending

About the Professor: Dr David Kohl

Dr_David_Kohl_GSBLSUThis elective course is taught by Dr David Kohl, Professor Emeritus Agriculture & Applied Economics at Virginia Tech in Blackburn, VA, has been teaching at GSBLSU for 25 years.  Dr Kohl spends significant amounts of time consulting across the US and Canada.

Dr Kohl ties in many of his agricultural and rural facts in his class to real-world applications from a business he founded 15 years ago with his two farmer business partners, Homestead Creamery– a company that sells milk in charming old fashioned glass bottles, provides home delivery to the Roanoke, VA area, and stocks the shelves of Kroger, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and multiple others along the east coast.

About the Course

The 2015 class, attended by juniors and seniors, was nearly at capacity, but Dr Kohl explained just how much the demand for the course has varied over his tenure with GSBLSU.  The course was completely removed from the school’s offerings in the 1980’s due to low demand.  However, Dr Don Woodland approached Dr Kohl about re-working the course and bringing it back to students.  With renewed interest and surging enrollment in the class, a clear shift in the nature of rural and agricultural small business lending has become apparent and significant.

The content of the course focuses on the megatrends, both domestic and international, that influence rural and agricultural industry along with the implications for banks on the credit risk, lending, and growth opportunities with businesses in the agricultural/rural sectors.  Several of the topics covered in the class include:

  • Reasons To Be Optimistic About Agriculture
  • Trends To Expect: Populations and Consumerism
  • Macro Factors Impacting Agriculture
  • Industry Structure
  • Real Estate Valuation
  • Intergenerational Business Transfer
  • Significant Global Forecasts
  • Industry Specific Case Studies

The junior bankers attending the session with Dr Kohl were engaged and actively inquisitive on his material.  The valuable information will be implemented back at home banks with better understanding of management best practices, of underwriting, and of credit scoring.  With such rapid advancements in the agricultural world and the constantly undulating spectrum of global and domestic trends, the GSBLSU banking students  rightly foresee a need to educate and plan for the changes ahead in the rural and agricultural small business lending arena.

A Little Bit Of Lagniappe

Dr Kohl not only delivered on the course information, he also throws in several fun and interesting facts during his fast-talking sessions. A few of the gems he left students with were:

  • Dr Woodland has been the director of GSBLSU since 1967.
  • He encourages number-crunchers and bankers to think comprehensively and holistically in their lending situations, stating, “A lot of problems lie outside of the numbers.” Using his experience with Homestead Creamery and the listeria contamination at a similar dairy processing facility to show just how unpredictable business can truly be in the real world.
  • The 3,500 Hour Rule: Many bankers find themselves stretched too thin due to overcommitting at work and in the community, often dedicating 3,000 hours at work and an additional 500 hours in civic and volunteerism activities. This is a sure-fire path to burn out. He cautions his class to not exceed 2,500 hours annually or risk running out of momentum.
  • Dr Kohl is a runner and likes to get his runs in around the LSU lakes each morning. It would be a great time for a one-on-one conversation with a fellow runner in the banking world!

These are only a few tidbits of additional, bonus info (lagniappe, as we say in Louisiana) that can be garnered from the session with Dr Kohl.  In order to get more of these, you’ll have to enroll at GSBLSU and sign up for this fun and informative class.