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California FarmLink

P.O. Box 2224
7207 Bodega Ave
Sebastopol, CA 95473

Contact: Steve Schwartz, Executive Director
Phone: (707) 829-1691
Fax: (707) 829-1693
URL: www.californiafarmlink.org
Email: info@californiafarmlink.org
California FarmLink

California FarmLink introduced the Farm Opportunities Loan Program in 2005 and administers the program with Cal Coastal Rural Development, a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution, and USDA Farm Service Agency certified lender. FarmLink’s loan program targets small farmers seeking loans up to $100,000 for operating and infrastructure, and farm purchase loans up to $250,000 with Cal Coastal (total limit $1.6 million). This program complements FarmLink’s technical assistance, training, and services connecting farmers with land opportunities.

Program

California FarmLink’s work joins the efforts of farm transition organizations throughout the country by coupling efforts to transition farm businesses with preservation of farmland in perpetuity and special outreach to low-income and minority farmers. FarmLink’s programs offer technical assistance regarding farm business transitions and securing assets through loans or matched-savings. California FarmLink has a database with names of over 600 beginning farmers interested in starting or developing their own farming or ranching operations, and a database with the names of nearly 200 retiring farmers looking to keep their land in agricultural production.
FarmLink’s Farm Opportunities Loan Program provides infrastructure and operating loans to beginning farmers. The Loan Program can get a start-up small farm established, cover key operating costs, or help a farm business expand. Loans are reviewed by a committee including commercial agricultural lenders and guaranteed 90% by the USDA Farm Service Agency. FarmLink’s innovative IDA program, launched in 2003, helps low-income farmers build assets for capital expenditures through a matched-savings account. With recent national recognition for its inclusion in the current Farm Bill, it is the first program of its kind in the country to exclusively serve farmers.


Client Population

California FarmLink targets the 80% of California farmers who had farm revenues under $100,000. In, 2008, a total of 104 individuals were served in the Farm Opportunities Loan Program, of those 30% were women, 32% minorities, and 64% low to middle income farmers (of those reporting data). The majority of the beginning farmers and ranchers in the program meet the Farm Service Agency definition of Young farmer with an age of 35 or below. Approximately 95% are specialty crop producers and approximately 82% are committed to the techniques of sustainable agriculture including organic production.

Impact

In 2008, California FarmLink’s Farm Opportunities Loan Program gained momentum with significant increases in the number of loans and dollars approved—increasing the dollar amount of approved loans by almost 400%. Twelve loans were approved in 2008, serving eight farmers, a strong increase from two loans in 2006 and four loans in 2007. Several Individual Development Account (IDA) and linking program applicants have taken advantage of the Farm Opportunities Loan Program, representing increased synergy between California FarmLink programs. The agricultural IDA program also served as a model for a new pilot program for beginning farmers in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Story

California FarmLink
In 2005, California FarmLink connected farmer David Silveira with the landlords of a 60+ acre property near Merced, CA. This began David’s mission to set up one of the few CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) in his area. David came to California FarmLink for assistance with financing his operation, after receiving discouraging feedback from more traditional lenders. In 2007, after receiving help with his cash-flow projection and business plan from California FarmLink staff, David was approved for 2 loans through the organization’s Farm Opportunities Loan Program. Full Story

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