We are so excited to see our 5th season of the Microloan program kicking off in 2020! This is a program that began in 2016 through a partnership with Crosshatch Center for Arts and Ecology. We had been sitting around the table with Crosshatch trying to identify how we, as a Natural Foods Cooperative could support and bolster the local food and farm economy. Both us and Crosshatch saw the microloan program as something that would do just that and so the rest is history.
The way the program works is that the Grain Train supplies the funds to be loaned, manages the loan distribution and payments and covers Crosshatch’s administrative fees for the program. Crosshatch handles the marketing and promotion of the program and sets up and manages the online application system. They also reach out to past recipients to find out how their projects are going and then tell the stories of those farms through the many channels that they have. There is a Microloan review panel made up of representatives from both organizations as well as others in the business world that look over the applicants and the selection(s) for the year.
We have learned a few things over the years. We started off awarding the funds in early summer and quickly learned that this is too late in the season for farmers so now the funds are disbursed by early March. This started off as a low interest rate loan program and since then we decided to make it a zero interest program. We started the program off by offering up to $6,000 in Micro Loans each year and since 2019 that amount has gone up to $10,000. We want to make sure that this program is as accessible to farmers and food producers as possible. Another thing that makes this program really accessible to farmers is that we consider proposals from $500 all the way up to $10,000. There could be one really strong application that we award the full $10,000 to or there might be multiple applications that we award various amounts to each year.
To date we have loaned $30, 557 to nine farms. In 2019, Oryana Community Coop partnered with Crosshatch adding seven counties and another $10,000 annu
To date we have loaned $30, 557 to nine farms. In 2019, ally to the program. This makes the overall reach of the Microloan program 12 countries with a total of $20,000 in funds to be loaned.
Microloan Applications are open and due February 7, 2020.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
This project aims to enhance an existing local food or farming venture or to help start a new one. The ideal candidate will propose an idea that would boost a farm or food business and elevate the region’s local food system. Applicants using sustainable practices are strongly encouraged, but proposals are not limited to particular practices or scale
USES FOR LOAN
essential tools for the farm or food business
materials, land, livestock, or infrastructure essential to the operation
marketing and distribution
value-added product production
processing, packaging, marketing for farm products
$500 - $10,000
repayment terms dependent on loan size
0% interest rate
no application fee
We are excited to see what projects come in through this year’s applications. If you or someone you know has an idea to boost, expand or begin your local food or farm business or you are please apply or share this information with anyone you think might be interested! We are honored to be a part of our communities and the Microloan program is just one of many ways we are here to offer support.