Filling in the Gap for Small Farmers

May 11, 2018

 

Credit Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

There’s no shortage of challenges to life as a farmer: long hours, unpredictable weather, small profit margins. But a new group in central Virginia wants to make sure access to capital isn’t one of those challenges.


Hunter Hopcroft is the co-founder of Slow Money Central Virginia, a new nonprofit that will give small loans to farmers. For example, Hopcroft knows a beef farmer in Chesterfield, who wants to put their land under a conservation easement.

“To do that they need to put up cattle fencing to prevent runoff into a nearby stream,” Hopcroft says. “Cattle fencing for a property that large can easily run up to $40 or 50,000 thousand.”

Not exactly the amount a farmer might have in their back pocket, and yet not enough to easily get a loan from a bank, even a community bank.

“You might have a 2 or 3 million dollar loan portfolio. It’s very hard to justify that filling that 20, 30, 50-thousand dollars at a time,” Hopcroft says. “I’ve even heard small business owners get denied for hundred, two hundred thousand dollar loans where the loan officer afterwards said ‘You know you really should have asked for half a million or something.’”

Slow Money Central Virginia is hoping to fill that funding gap. With support from a national nonprofit, the group will set up an interest-free revolving loan fund. Co-founder Michael Reilly says the fund will be fueled by private donations.

“What we are trying to communicate is that this is really an investment back to the community. Back to local food,” says Reilly.  

The initial goal is to raise about $50,000 and begin lending this fall.

Slow Money Central Virginia is hosting kick-off events in the coming weeks. The first is May 15th in Charlottesville at Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen and Brewery. The second is May 23rd in Richmond at Ellwood Thompson’s.

You can find more details here.

 This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.