BriarPatch catalyzes local loans for farms and ranches

California food cooperatives like BriarPatch are at the heart of community food systems, and local farms are the lifeblood.

Small family farms provide jobs, ecological management of open spaces and healthy food. Partnering with BriarPatch Food Co-op for the past eight years, California FarmLink has been able to provide essential loans to farmers who bring fresh produce to your table. Together, FarmLink and BriarPatch have created a local smallholder farm loan fund dedicated to the BriarPatch farming and ranching community.

California FarmLink helps farmers access land and capital, and this year celebrates 20 years of serving small, organic and sustainable agricultural entrepreneurs. As a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit community development finance institution, or CDFI, FarmLink provides loans to farmers who often have limited options for affordable business capital.

Through our partnership, BriarPatch pays the loan origination costs and guarantees part of the financing, providing more security for the loan. This translates into a reduced interest rate for the farmer or rancher (currently 3% per annum), a larger loan in the FarmLink portfolio and concrete support for local farmers.

BriarPatch “puts its money where its mouth is,” supporting financial options for farms and ranches that provide local food. California FarmLink has refined its approach to smallholder farm development through mission-based loans, land links for farmers seeking to lease or purchase land, and assistance in land lease development. About 90% of the farms it serves are organic. Beginning farmers, in particular, cite access to land and capital as the main barriers to success, and FarmLink seeks to remove these structural barriers.

So far, with support from BriarPatch, FarmLink has loaned $ 414,000 through 13 loans to six farm businesses. Each loan is designed to meet their unique business needs. The loans were used for the purchase of equipment and working capital for costs such as seeds and transplants, the purchase of livestock, or payments for land rental and seasonal field preparation. An affordable farm loan, with payments structured around farm income cycles, can greatly benefit cash flow and enable greater investment in quality crops and sustainable practices.

One of the beneficiaries of the loan partnership is Cosmic Roots Ranch, which supports its ability to grow and deliver unique Mangalitsa pork products, including locally sourced, pasture-raised ground pork, available in the meat department. of the cooperative. More recently, FarmLink provided an equipment loan to New Leaf Grown with support from BriarPatch. Owners Ellen and Jeff Weld are using the funds to purchase specialized mushroom preparation tools that will increase their organic mushroom production. In 2019, FarmLink also provided operating loans to Riverhill Farm and Flying V Farm for their organic vegetable production. FarmLink subscribers were impressed with the variety and quality of locally grown produce available at BriarPatch, which is now supported by this program.

Source: Catherine Van Dyke, Credit Officer at California Farm Link

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