- Erica, Shelterbelt Farms
When I heard about Kiva U.S. it sounded too good to be true, so I decided to get a Kiva U.S. loan for my own farm, Shelterbelt Farm. I was able to raise a $5,000 loan in just a few weeks with the Greenhorns as my Trustee and 138 lenders supporting me. I was astonished at the boost in morale I felt from having all these strangers who wanted to see me succeed. I used my Kiva loan to buy a hoophouse, a livestock guardian dog, and 6 sheep. Three years later, I have paid off my loan, my flock has grown to 45 sheep, and I now have 3 hoophouses and 2 livestock guardian dogs. The Kiva loan was a key step to helping me grow my farm.
Starting a farm business is fraught with difficulty. Starting any small business is challenging, but the risks are even greater with a farm, because farmers deal with dynamic living systems. Even decades of experience can't mitigate erratic weather patterns or the sudden onslaught of new pests and diseases, and new farmers who are still on a steep learning curve are even more vulnerable to the risks inherent in farming.
The Cornell Small Farms Program, a Trustee of Kiva U.S., works to support these farmers at every stage of their business, with critical information sources, online trainings, and a network of Cornell Cooperative Extension and other educators able to provide customized assistance.
In the 10 years that we've been targeting services to beginning farmers, one consistent theme has been farmers' need for access to capital. Bankers don't like risk, and most financial institutions aren't well-versed in agriculture, so farmers generally don't have access to loans from those sources. The main institution set up to provide loan funds to farmers is the FSA (Farm Services Agency), but many new farmers don't yet have enough experience to qualify for FSA loans, or their credit isn't good enough.
This is where Kiva U.S. really shines for the farmers we serve. Kiva U.S. provides a relatively small, interest-free loan that comes with the morale support of hundreds of lenders (aka cheerleaders). It's exactly the type of appropriate funding that can jump-start a small farmer's success. Not only does it help them make critical infrastructure or operating investments in their business, but repaying the loan builds their confidence in managing their finances.
As a Kiva U.S. Trustee, we have endorsed 9 farmers to receive Kiva U.S. loans for a total of $67,550. We would like to see this number grow and intend to keep expanding our promotion of Kiva U.S. microloan opportunities to the farmers we serve.
I'd like to send Kiva love to the farmers we've endorsed who have been consistently paying back their loans on time but give a boost of Kiva love to Bejan Behai and Ross Hackerson, two of our borrowers who are struggling with Spring cash flow on the farm and still managing to make their payments even when they're not on time.
I'd also like to send Kiva love to Katherine Lynch - she has been a fabulous local resource and cheerleader for our efforts here in NY.
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