Co-op launches revolving loan program for farmers

By Lance Henderson

The Community Food Co-op’s Farm Fund recently received a $12,000 matching grant from the Sustainable Whatcom Fund of the Whatcom Community Foundation. Paired with donations from shoppers, the Farm Fund will be able to direct $18,000 to the creation of a new revolving loan fund for local farms committed to using sustainable practices. The deadline to receive one of the first loans is Feb. 5.

The revolving loan program is designed to provide short-term, low interest financing to farmers and food producers who may not be able to secure a loan elsewhere.

“The revolving loan fund has the potential to help local farmers meet their infrastructure needs, diversify products, increase environmental practices, fill gaps in the local food supply and create new markets,” said Co-op General Manager Jim Ashby.

Whatcom Community Foundation CEO Mauri Ingram said that the foundation is honored to provide funds to meet a portion of the capital needs of local farmers.

“It’s particularly exciting given that in the current economic environment access to capital is extraordinarily challenging for all business sectors,” Ingram said.

Laura Leigh Ridenour, Sustainable Connections Food and Farming manager and Farm Fund committee member, said the revolving loan program supports innovation, sustainability and diversity in our local food and agriculture system.

“This much needed capital will help grow businesses and increase the capacity of our local food economy,” Ridenour said

The Farm Fund will also direct $6,000 in grants to projects that build the market for local farms, encourage ecologically and socially responsible stewardship of farmland and increase community access to, and awareness of, healthy local food.

To apply by the Feb. 5 deadline, contact Jean Rogers at the Community Food Co-op at (360) 734-8158 ext. 217. Grant and loan decisions will be announced by March 1, 2010, and funds will be released by March 15.

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