Financing local food systems

Photo by seniwati via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Civil Eats recently ran a great article by Bob Heuer on why “Regional Food Systems Need Financial Services to Flourish.” The piece opens with a local connection:

“I’m the only middle man I like,” farmer Bill Warner says of his preference for a direct marketing business model that’s become known as “retail agriculture.” The 53-year-old Warner and his wife Judy Hageman co-own Snug Haven Farm. Located in Wisconsin’s Dane County, they supply an acre’s worth of spinach, tomatoes, flowers and herbs to farmers’ markets, restaurants and a buyer’s club….

Warner’s skepticism towards middle men extends to the financial-services arena. He’s yet to meet a banker who understands his business and he sees no point in “cleaning up to go to town, fill out forms and get rejected. If we need to borrow money, we go to our customers,” he says. Warner has pooled loan funds from customers to buy the last four of the farm’s 13 hoop houses as well as a $25,000 tractor.

Heuer sees a solution to the problems of finance faced by smaller-scale farmers: “The pump priming should begin with Farm Credit System (FCS)—a century-old agricultural lending network created by Congress.” For all the details, check out the full story here.


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