Member Highlight: Chris Laughton

Introducing Farm Credit East and Chris Laughton, New Upstate Capital Members

Chris Laughton is based in Connecticut and represents Farm Credit East, and joined Upstate Capital in September 2020. He has a farming background, working in a greenhouse nursery business in Massachusetts for many years before coming to Farm Credit East. Chris is based in Connecticut.  He is passionate about international travel, and has visited 36 countries!  Some of those trips have been made through USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program. The program sends people from the United States to foreign countries to share farming practices and farm business knowledge.

Chris works with Farm Credit East, a farmer-owned cooperative that provides 70% of all farm debt in New York. The organization lends to businesses in farming, forestry, aquaculture and commercial fishing. Their portfolio includes $4.2B in loan commitments in New York, to just over 10,000 customers. Formed in 1916, the Farm Credit system was created by the federal government and then spun off as a private organization, similar to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing industry. At Farm Credit East, covering the northeast region of the US, there are just under 500 employees, about half of them work in New York, in 12 offices across the state. Their mission is to serve the entire agricultural community, and loans range from $10,000 to multi-million dollar loans.

In 2006, the organization created the FarmStart program to address the unmet needs of beginning farmers. The program is designed to provide operating capital to emerging farm-based businesses. It provides unsecured or minimally secured capital for farms in the early years that may not qualify for traditional loans.  The cap is $75,000, with no down payment or collateral required. It is often combined with other sources of capital, like mortgages for land.  The 5-year loan can either be repaid or refinanced at the end of the term. More than 300 loans have been made since the program started. 

Eric Pohlman is sharing the membership with Chris, and is a loan officer in the commercial lending division. He works on partnerships, participation with commercial banks, and larger deals. Generally deals above $5M involve participation with more than one bank. Both Chris and Eric are interested in meeting commercial lenders, farming, fishing and forestry businesses at any stage, from startups to larger operations. 

Chris Laughton can be reached at and Eric Pohlman can be reached at