More small-scale farms, in more local communities, growing a greater diversity of food in sustainable and humane ways, are key ingredients in CLF’s recipe for a healthy, thriving New England for generations to come.
Let’s face it, with gas prices topping $4 per gallon and global warming causing deepening droughts across many of the world’s most productive agricultural areas, we just can’t continue to count on being able to get produce, meats, and dairy products shipped to our local supermarkets from factory farms that may be thousands of miles away.
Even in Vermont, where agriculture is a key component of our state’s economy and character, there are challenges to realizing an agricultural renaissance. One of the biggest challenges involves connecting existing and would-be farmers with the financing they need to flourish. With recovery from the credit crunch still slow, banks and other traditional sources of capital may be reluctant to take risks on smaller-scale farming operations (and with so many stories of banks behaving badly, local farmers may also be reluctant to work with banks).
Increasingly, Vermont farmers are turning to friends and neighbors in the communities where they live to raise smaller amounts of capital in unconventional ways. That’s why I was so excited to participate in a collaboration with farmers, attorneys, accountants, and investment professionals that is aimed at helping publicize and demystify the various community-financing tools that farmers can utilize as they seek to start up and/or grow their farms.
The effort was led by University of Vermont’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which recently published the “Guide to Financing the Community-Supported Farm: Ways for Farms to Acquire Capital Within Communities” (you can download a free copy by clicking here). Among the many community financing tools discussed in the guide are:
- owner-financed sales and land contracts (chapter authored by yours truly)
- cohousing and cooperative land ownership
- equity financing
- extended Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares
- revenue-based financing
- vendor financing
Though written by Vermonters for a primarily Vermont audience, much of the analysis and many of the case studies in the Guide will be useful to farmers and community food financiers all across New England. Check it out!