Grass Valley – Farms and ranches in Nevada and Placer counties are receiving the financial boost they need to jump start the growing season, thanks to operational and equipment loans funded through a partnership between California FarmLink and BriarPatch Food Co-op.
“Under the program, California FarmLink loans money to qualified farms to bridge the gap between harvests or to purchase needed equipment and infrastructure. The loans are guaranteed by BriarPatch, which results in more access to funding and lower interest rates for the farms. In addition, BriarPatch pays the farms’ loan fees,” said Andrea Echegaray, BriarPatch Finance Manager.
Already this year, six loans have been guaranteed under the program: First Rain Farm and Riverhill Farm in Nevada City, Stone’s Throw Farm in Colfax, Starbright Acres Family Farm and Cosmic Roots Ranch in Grass Valley and New Leaf Grown in Penn Valley.
The partnership between California FarmLink and BriarPatch first began with a loan to Riverhill Farm in 2011. Since then, more than $534,000 in loans have been provided to local farmers and ranchers.
Critical Funding at the Right Time
“Spring is always a time of great capital outlay and minimal income. Having this loan will allow us more breathing room and help us purchase items that we might otherwise forego, but that will greatly help the function of our systems and efficiency of our work,” said Farmer Tim Van Wagner of First Rain Farm.
First Rain Farm was approved for an operating loan of up to $30,000 this year. Farmers are not required to use the entire amount, yet they can relax knowing they have a buffer for unforeseen expenses. Farmers are only charged interest on the amount that is used. Van Wagner says he will use the money for payroll, farm supplies and new compostable packaging for raspberries that will be sold to BriarPatch shoppers in August, September and October.
“BriarPatch really tries to operate in a way that puts the success of the farmer first,” said Catherine Van Dyke, Loan Officer for California FarmLink. The mission of FarmLink is to link independent farmers and ranchers with the land, financing, and information they need for a sustainable future. Established in 1999, FarmLink supports farms and ranches that are in the start-up phase, have limited resources, or are run by immigrant and other under-served demographics. The group works across the state, with particular focus on the Central Coast, Central Valley, and North Coast regions.
“Access to capital is essential to the success of farms because it helps to enable investment in the business from a place of financial security. This investment contributes to the long-term prosperity of farms by improving production systems and labor retention,” said Van Wagner, who has a 10-year business relationship with BriarPatch. This is the farm’s first FarmLink loan.
“The process was extremely smooth. Having BriarPatch as a guarantor to the loan really goes a long way in expediting the approval process. I’ve been working with BriarPatch for over ten years and the relationship we’ve built is one of respect and professionalism. I believe this made it easy for BriarPatch to recommend the loan [to] go through with FarmLink,” said Van Wagner.
Farmers from Stone’s Throw Farm will also increase their product offerings at BriarPatch this year, thanks in part to the FarmLink loan. They will expand last year’s flower and broccolini offerings and will also add new crops like bunched green onions and salad mix.
“We are really excited about these crops and they require a good deal of labor. Having the ability to bring crew on, get beds prepared and get crops in the ground with this operating loan has absolutely allowed us to increase what we offered and hope to produce this year,” said farmer Bryanna Eisenhut of Stone’s Throw Farm.
A model for the state
It’s a win-win for all involved. BriarPatch deepens its relationship with local farmers and strengthens its supply of locally-sourced food. Farmers and ranchers experience expanded production capacity and increased market opportunities by selling more products at BriarPatch. Shoppers enjoy a larger abundance of fresh, local food and a stronger, more resilient local food system and economy. Even the environment wins because the products aren’t transported long distances using fossil fuels.
This type of co-op and farmer relationship is somewhat of a rarity in the state, says Gary Peterson, Director of Communications and Philanthropy for FarmLink. He calls BriarPatch a flagship model for how other co-op grocery stores in California could be supporting the success of local farms.
“BriarPatch has been in the lead for several years,” said Peterson. He is looking to forge similar models with other California co-ops. “From our perspective, it’s one more vital tool to broadcast affordable financing on the ground for farmers.”
BriarPatch Food Co-op is a community-owned cooperative business. We provide our community with quality food and products, strengthen our local economy, and support local/regional businesses that are committed to regenerative agriculture, sustainability, humane practices, and organic farming.