January 25, Owatonna, MINN. - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), along with its partners through the FEAST Local Foods Network, including Renewing the Countryside and Slow Money Minnesota, are happy to announce the launch of a new loan fund for small-scale, sustainable farmers. The Grow a Farmer Fund is a revolving loan fund managed by SMIF that offers lower-interest loans up to $15,000 to individuals in SMIF's 20-county region for inventory, supplies, working capital or machinery/equipment.
Fundraising for the Grow a Farmer Fund kicked off last May at Slow Money Minnesota's annual gathering and was inspired by the principles of Slow Money, which originated out of the slow food movement. Slow Money's mission is to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems, connect investors to the places where they live and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that "bring money back down to earth."
"In Minnesota, those of us working with farmers have seen the challenges and risks faced by those growing fruits and vegetables, raising grass-fed livestock, and producing honey, maple syrup, and other 'specialty crops," said Jan Joannides, Executive Director of Renewing the Countryside. "These farmers often have difficulty accessing traditional sources of capital, which is why the Grow a Farmer Fund is a critical resource."
Since May, the fund has grown to nearly $100,000. Those interested in supporting the Grow a Farmer Fund can still donate online. SMIF contributed $25,000.
"One of the most encouraging things about the Grow a Farmer Fund is all the collaboration that went in to making it happen," said SMIF President and CEO Tim Penny. "Over 250 people and organizations donated to this fund, so clearly people are interested in seeing more local food options."
The Grow a Farmer Fund is yet another outcome of the FEAST Local Foods Network, a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates. The FEAST Network organizes the annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, held annually in Rochester.