Interest in organic farming is surging, with both millennials who’ve never planted a seed before and long-time family farmers getting in on the action.
But while growing your own edible plants in pots, and even your own backyard garden can be both efficient and cost-effective, growing and producing organic food on a large scale takes both practice and a certain amount of capital.
Affordability and financing are often the biggest obstacles to farmland access for prospective organic farmers, but now two Northeast investors are hoping to “be the change” that enables the local small organic farming scene to thrive the way area residents always knew it could.
The “First in 25 Years”
Agricultural sales in Maine grew 24 percent from 2007 to 2012, and more young people than ever are getting into farming, according to this article from the Bangor Daily News.
But as noted by John Piotti, head of the Maine Farmland Trust in the article, affordability and financing are the two biggest barriers to farmland access moving forward.
Enter Sam May and Scott Budde, two investors who are planning to launch the first new credit union in Maine in 25 years, one that will be focused exclusively on helping small farmers get the lines of credit they need for land, equipment and more.
“Here’s a sector that’s growing, and in some places very rapidly. Everybody likes it, it’s got broad support and there are financing gaps that people are talking about, so why wouldn’t you have this?” Budde told the Bangor Daily News.
The credit union is expected to get a state charter in around two years and hopes to reach $10 to $15 million in deposits by its eighth year. It will also offer mortgages between $100k and $500k and equipment loans between $5k and $50k, serving members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Maine Farmland Trust.
The decision to start the credit union was made in large part after May researched the nonprofit credit union model as the best option for supporting small organic farmers in the state.
May and Budde chose the name Maine Harvest Credit Union (website here), and are seeking about $1.4 million in grants this month to jumpstart the project and to help organic farmers thrive even more in the “The Pine Tree State.”
“It’s the only realistic economic engine for large swaths of rural Maine,” Piotti told the Bangor Daily News. “You can’t have sustainable rural economies without sustainable agriculture.”