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Farmer Loan Program

People’s Food Co-op Provides $8,000 in No Interest Loans to Local Farmers

“Offering a ‘No Interest Loan’ is intentionally revolutionary in its unique and progressive approach”, says Kris DeMaria, Finance Coordinator at People’s Food Co-op. No Interest Loans are opposite of the normal cycle all too many farmers find themselves in – the cycle of high interest loans, debt, and the inability to reach financial security and true economic viability through their business. This approach embraces the relationships that we seek to cultivate when we use the terms “local” - we want to support the growth efforts of farmers to provide our community with food. People’s intention is not to make money off the farmers, but to share the resources that we have to better enable farmers to provide us with the food and resources needed to live a healthy life.

So far, nearly $8,000 has been distributed to eight local farms and farmers. Farmers are known for their ability to make a little go a long way – and People’s Farmer Loan recipients are no different. With this “seed money” our recipients have started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, purchased seeds for a farm expansion, repaired a greenhouse from the 2009 winter storms, and procured a bailer to start bailing straw to sell back to the co-op, to name a few.

Farmers create their own timeline for payback, none having passed six months for complete payback. “The idea is that we lend farmers money when they need it, allowing them to pick the time as to when they can pay it back, so that the amount returned is just the principle – no interest”, says Johanna Tomesch, Farmer Loan co-creator and produce buyer, “we aren’t taking money from the people that are providing us with our food.”

Our goal is make the program accessible to those who need it, while also maintaining criteria that supports the goals of the store. Up to this point, we have focused primarily on offering the loans to farmers that we already work with and know could use some financial assistance. We are in a prime position to truly know our farmers, and knowing their story deeply is what allows us to determine a good match.  That said, we have gone beyond our store to outside networks including the farmers at our weekly farmers’ market, mercy corps funded farmers, and outreach on the Portland CSA website. In these cases, part of the criteria includes forming a business relationship to enable us to keep in touch and stay apprised of their growing practices.   In addition, the mission and values of the farm and farmers should be in line with the Ends of the co-op.

In addition to the Farmer Loan program, the Finance Team is continually working on ways to invest money into our community to help farmers start unique projects and add value to their operations.   If you are interested in participating in the Farmer Loan program, please email Kris or Johanna or download the application and return to us.

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