When Ben and I moved onto this property in 2013 we signed a two-year lease with the owners who had farmed the land for a decade as Appalachia Star Farm. Leasing is a great way for prospective farmers to start farming without enormous resourse outlay. For example, we benefited from the work the owners had done working the fields, installing infrastructure, and developing markets. And some farmers craft long-term leases that give them the stability of owning while allowing them to keep their cash. In the end, we opted to buy.
And, as of Thanksgiving, we now own this beautiful little farm! Michael and Katherine, we will do our best to carry on your legacy of stewarding this land.
The biggest barrier that we faced was, as you might expect, accessing credit. Few lenders will consider offering credit to a small business with less than two years’ track record. And it is challenging to make a farm look as successful on paper as it actually is, because the lifestyle is rich in ways unrelated to the bottom line.
But in a twist of conventional wisdom, the government bureaucracy made possible what the private sector couldn’t. The Farm Service Agency, an offshoot of the U.S.Department of Agriculture, offered us a great loan with a competitive interest rate and a repayment schedule that accomodates our seasonal cash flow. And we have an loan officer whose policy in times of trouble is to “just call me”. Strange as it may sound in today’s cut-throat lending climate, it’s enough to make us feel like our lender is actually trying to help us.
The Farm Service Agency and its many farmer-friendly loan programs are funded by the 2014 Farm Bill. We never could have imagined that there could be such great support for small farmers tucked into its nearly $1 trillion budget.
If you find yourself wanting to eat fresh local food, but find it too expensive for your budget, we have a new option this year. Thanks to generous donors to our farm, we are now have a limited number of pay-what-you-can CSA shares!
A 2014 CSA share in midsummer
To help decide if the pay-what-you-can program is right for you, please look here to view the details of our CSA share and what the costs are. Before you sign up, send us an email with the amount that you would like to pay for your share. Once we make sure we have the funds to support your share, we will send you a link to sign up for our CSA.
You may pay any amount that suits your budget; we won’t ask questions. Please keep in mind that the more you are able to contribute towards your share, the more people like you we will be able to help.
We are thrilled that we are able to make our delicious vegetables and bread available to folks that may normally be unable to afford it. This is our way of increasing access to fresh, nutritious food that is responsibly-grown and -produced.
Please help us spread the word about this exciting program! And if you would like to make a donation to help us extend our low-cost CSA share program to more people, please contact us.
Yes, this counts as the first-ever crop that Little Hat Creek Farm has put into the ground! We saved our largest, most beautiful heads of garlic for next year’s crop. Its tempting to disturb their thick hay mulch blanket to see if they are *actually* growing, but they really wouldn’t like that very much. Alas, we won’t see much action until spring. Luckily, we have other things to distract us, like seeding spinach in the fields, and getting our lettuce and greens ready for the Charlottesville City Holiday Market. We’re babying these sweet little seedlings, covering them on cold nights, and bringing them in to our house on even colder nights. Grow, babies, grow!