The American Bankers Association Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking will present Pennsylvania banker Michael H. Firestine with its annual Bruning Award for his leadership and outstanding dedication to providing credit and financial guidance to farmers, ranchers and rural businesses.
The award will be presented at the ABA National Agricultural Bankers Conference in Milwaukee on Nov. 14. Firestine has been an agricultural banker with the same bank for more than 35 years. He began his ag banking career in 1978 with Lebanon National Valley bank, which later merged with Fulton Bank where Firestine is currently a senior vice president.
“The best feeling in the world is helping a young, beginning, start-up farmer establish himself and then five to six years later see that he’s doing really well, he’s successful, and family is prospering. That’s been the most rewarding part of my career,” said Firestine.
Firestine’s career is marked by many years of service to the industry having served as chairman of the ABA Agricultural and Rural Bankers Committee as well as helping establish the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s Agricultural and Rural Issues Committee. Currently he is chairman of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Committee, commissioner for the Pennsylvania Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission and a board member of the Pennsylvania Agriculture Land Preservation Board.
Firestine sees challenges ahead for the agricultural sector, but is optimistic about the opportunities for young people interested in the field. Both of his daughters have gone into agriculture – one is a veterinarian and the other is a commercial event manager at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in addition to working on the family farm. He has a passion for helping the next generation get into agriculture. He played an integral role in establishing a scholarship fund at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, which has awarded $1.5 million in scholarships. He has also assisted in starting other agricultural scholarship programs in Pennsylvania.
“The cost of education keeps increasing, and right now agriculture is in a slump, so I want to be sure we’re doing everything we can to help young men and women get their education and come back to agriculture,” said Firestine. “All of these scholarships are designated for youth that are involved in agriculture and are designed to help them fulfill their dreams.”
Firestine was born and raised in a small German town in Pennsylvania where his grandfather was a dairy farmer. In addition to agricultural lending, Firestine runs a family farm where he produces pumpkins and other crops and raises Hereford cattle. Firestine lives in Womelsdorf, Penn., with his wife, Martene.
The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $17 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $13 trillion in deposits and extend more than $9 trillion in loans.