When Russell Williams started his grain farm in 1980, he got financing from the same small bank his parents had relied upon when they first tilled the earth 40 years earlier.

But three years ago, when it came time to expand, Mr. Williams took his cue from the name of his hometown in Illinois, New Leaf. He turned to a newfangled nonbank, Ag Services of America, an agriculture supply company that offers real estate and equipment financing.

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