March 17, 2011 It’s known that banks typically will not loan money to someone who wants to buy farmland in order to farm it. An example of this is a local farmer who was repeatedly turned away from mainstream banks just because he wanted to buy a farm and farm it. He had the experience, the business plan, starter funds, and even a farm picked out – but the answer was repeatedly ‘no’. He did get the farm, eventually, only because he was told to keep the word ‘farm’ off of his loan application. How can we (as a society) encourage new, young farmers to take this on as a career choice if good land, and money to buy it, is not made available?
Slowly this is changing. As awareness grows about our food and people are interested in buying locally grown food, new opportunities seem to be surfacing. Here is a venture group looking to invest in farmers and farmland in the Midwest: New Spirit Ventures, Sustaining Farmers through Social Finance.
“We are an early-stage social finance organization, with a goal of helping farmers committed to organic or sustainable agriculture start, maintain and grow their operations by linking them with socially motivated capital providers who share their values of organic production, land stewardship and family farming.
The need for this effort is great. Farmers seeking to establish direct marketing operations as well as farmers in more rural areas seeking to expand crop or livestock operations, cannot access land because of high land prices. Farming is a highly capital intensive activity; many farmers are advised to start or grow their operations through leasing rather than taking on additional debt. Today, many small and mid-tier farmers both own and lease land; it is estimated that over 50% of US farm and ranch land is currently farmed under lease. Organic farmers have a special need for long-term leases to make possible their conversion of the land to organic practices and to practice good land stewardship.”
Perhaps there are other venture groups working to do something similar. If you know of any, please share.
To read accompanying post, A New Family Farmer, click here.