When Ben and I moved onto this property in 2013 we signed a two-year lease with the owners who had farmed the land for a decade as Appalachia Star Farm. Leasing is a great way for prospective farmers to start farming without enormous resourse outlay. For example, we benefited from the work the owners had done working the fields, installing infrastructure, and developing markets. And some farmers craft long-term leases that give them the stability of owning while allowing them to keep their cash. In the end, we opted to buy.
And, as of Thanksgiving, we now own this beautiful little farm! Michael and Katherine, we will do our best to carry on your legacy of stewarding this land.
The biggest barrier that we faced was, as you might expect, accessing credit. Few lenders will consider offering credit to a small business with less than two years’ track record. And it is challenging to make a farm look as successful on paper as it actually is, because the lifestyle is rich in ways unrelated to the bottom line.
But in a twist of conventional wisdom, the government bureaucracy made possible what the private sector couldn’t. The Farm Service Agency, an offshoot of the U.S.Department of Agriculture, offered us a great loan with a competitive interest rate and a repayment schedule that accomodates our seasonal cash flow. And we have an loan officer whose policy in times of trouble is to “just call me”. Strange as it may sound in today’s cut-throat lending climate, it’s enough to make us feel like our lender is actually trying to help us.
The Farm Service Agency and its many farmer-friendly loan programs are funded by the 2014 Farm Bill. We never could have imagined that there could be such great support for small farmers tucked into its nearly $1 trillion budget.