Farmer Reserve Fund

Farmer Reserve Fund

As any grower will tell you, it can be difficult to access credit. Beginning farmers in Skagit County can now surmount that hurdle thanks to the Farmer Reserve Fund, a new program recently launched by Slow Money Northwest and it’s partners Viva Farms, North Coast Credit Union, and Washington State University Extension. Ethan Schaffer, Executive Director of the non-profit Grow Food, parent organization of Slow Money NW and Viva Farms, a non-profit farm incubator in Skagit Valley, says that in trying to find a way to provide loans and extra capital to new farmers getting established the fund’s partners found there was a real lack of small loan programs available for beginning farmers.

SCHAFFER: There are a few programs supported by the USDA that mostly focus on loans from $10 thousand and above, often for larger equipment and land purchases, but that the start-up capitol - the kind of real early stage - under $10 thousand loans there’s a real gap. We were looking for something that could really help our farmers build their credit and establish the experience they would need to be able to apply for some of these larger loans and USDA backed loans.

That’s where the concept for the Farmer Reserve Fund was born.

SCHAFFER: The Farmer Reserve Fund can do generally loans sort of in the $5 thousand range, but up to $10 thousand to new farmers who are participating in some form of technical assistance and incubation program like Viva Farms.

The fund’s structure utilizes charitable donations as well as regular deposits at NCCU to establish a reserve fund, reducing risk for the credit union. Two FRF loans totaling $7 thousand have been made to Viva farmers, but the new project is looking at potentially loaning to folks involved in other programs.

I’m Lacy Gray and that’s Washington Ag Today on the Northwest Ag Information Network. 

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