Scotty Elston ('83) | Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
Chief Credit Officer, Ag Texas Farm
Credit Services in Lubbock, Texas
For Scotty Elston, life has always been about the land. Whether as a young boy growing up on a dairy farm, an ag major at ACU, or now an internal auditor for a bank that lends to farmers and ranchers, his focus is on how to help and serve the people who sustain America's agriculture.
The best part about ACU was the professors. They were directly involved in my life in a way that went beyond the classroom. To me, there's no comparison with any other university.
Elston decided on a degree in agriculture when he came to ACU, but wanted to use his background in farming in a different way than he'd grown up with. So he turned to agricultural business.
"I felt like I wanted to be involved in agriculture, but in another side," he said.
His time at ACU proved to be a good basis for his career in ag business.
Elston had a job waiting for him two weeks after graduation, working in Austin at the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank. He worked there for a year, providing credit to farmers and ranchers, serving as an auditor/reviewer, and traveling to all corners of the state. Along the way, he met people from all walks of life and had a range of varied experiences that would shape his later career decisions.
"I was thrilled to have a job; I was just learning and trying to take in everything involved," he said. "I got to see a lot of different things, see a lot of different aspects of the state, meet a lot of people; it was a good learning time."
Elston uses that experience in his current role as overseer of loans and lending operations for Ag Texas Farm Credit services in Lubbock. The company covers 24 counties in the state of Texas, with headquarters in Lubbock. He describes his position as a form of customer service, making sure that borrowers are getting what they need and that the board of directors is kept informed of current situations.
"I deal with many different people in many part of our organization," he said. "We do some problem management, helping some customers work through their challenges. I make sure we have the appropriate services and products for our borrowers."
As he works with auditors across the state, Elston is also responsible for maintaining the flow of information among bank officials and reporting to external customers.
"I make sure they have the information they need to keep their fingers on the pulse of what's happening," he said.
The (Church of Christ) heritage was a main part of my decision to go to ACU. The spiritual side, the perspective of being a follower of Christ, was an integral part of my education.
The good earth
For him, this job isn't just about serving as another cog in the machinery of finance. Elston sees himself as part of a vital chain of people that brings food from the field to the table - one that cannot exist without help from organizations like farm credit services.
"We deal with farmers and ranchers who literally grow the food we eat," he said. "Being able to help them is very satisfying for me. We want our customers to do well and succeed. We’re not a success if our customers are not."
Sometimes that success can prove elusive, however, particularly when the country is going through difficult economic times. Elston sees challenges lying ahead for American farmers as their numbers dwindle and representation for those in rural areas declines as well. The effects of such national problems become evident on a local scale that he sees on a daily basis.
"There are times when you get external pressures like the financial crisis we're facing right now, and that increases the regulations and oversight we have to undergo," he said. "There's a personal side to that that makes it directly applicable to us."
Elston can see both sides of the issue of global trade vs. buying local, homegrown products. He's looking for an approach that’s somewhere in the middle as the government looks at farm program policy and considers what will help farmers stay in business. But for him, the true focus of America's agricultural future is very simple.
"It all comes down to the safety, abundance and cost of our food supply," he said.
Although business can be difficult during tough economic times and American agriculture is going through dramatic changes, Elston still believes it's important to be involved in a process that provides food for millions of people. And he loves being able to go into the grocery store, stand in the middle of the produce aisle, and realize that he played a small part in what's going to end up on his table that night.
"It's that connection - in a small way, we're part of that," he said.
ACU's mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.
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