We heard from over 450 food and farm businesses in response to the Fair Finance Fund survey; thank you to all of you who responded. If you missed the survey, we are holding regional forums and would love to see you there.
Local Food and Farm Co-ops has launched a collaborative project that mobilizes capital to support the local food and farm sector. The Fair Finance Fund will be a social finance investment fund that supports local food and farm enterprises that have values in enhancing local food systems, local economies, and the planet.
We heard from almost every corner of the province. 35% of respondents are family farms, 28% are sole proprietorships. We heard from 55 non-profits, and businesses that were starting, scaling up to a new stage, or expanding. Our respondents came from across the supply chain: 20% were stores, 41% were in primary production, 18% came from distribution. There was also a good spread of business size, with around 18% over $500,000 gross revenues, and 21% under $10,000, with representation across the spectrum in between.
We have heard that getting loans from traditional sources has been a challenge for a range of reasons, including that the business was too new, the amount needed was too small, there was no collateral, or the interest rate offered was too high. The need for the Fair Finance Fund has been resoundingly confirmed in this survey; the business acumen, vision and viability of the local food and farm businesses is confirmed, and makes the sector a prime candidate for the Fund’s flexible loan terms and support networks.
In many cases, especially as small or start businesses, businesses report relying on credit cards. The loans food and farm businesses would need from the Fair Finance Fund are visionary (a farm to table restaurant), practical (deer fencing, hoop houses) and socially motivated (youth organic garden). Reading the responses to the uses for financing should give us hope for the future of the local food and farm sector; participant needs are both concrete and innovative, providing leadership that offers social, community and environmental benefits as part of doing business well.
The graphic below shows the positive impacts that will result from financing for these businesses:
The Fair Finance Fund will be officially launched in late 2018; the Fund will be designed to be supported by community investment to match the seed capital. The development team includes consultants from the impact investing arena and loan program management, as well as program managers from RAIN/ SSMIC and LFFC. We’ve interviewed approximately 100 stakeholders representing the local food and farm sector, community investors, finance specialists and others. The material will be assembled into a business plan that will provide the basis for the activities, goals and values of the first three years of activity. The Fund is designed to continue as a self-sustaining revolving loan fund.