Double SNAP Dollars Year in Review

The Double SNAP Dollars program is ending its second year in Missoula and its first year as a regional collaboration. The program had great successes in 2016 – read below for highlights from the past year!

Looking ahead to next year, CFAC will focus on extending the impact of the program by adding more DSD retailers, enhancing regional collaboration and community engagement, and providing more resources to help customers improve their health, step by step. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to build an equitable food system that provides equal opportunities for health. We look forward to continuing our work with local farmers, eaters and businesses to do just that!

Happy Holidays, Montana! dsd-2016-report_page_1dsd-2016-report-back

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Strategic Plan 2017-2021

As we celebrate CFAC’s 12 years of advocacy and political action on behalf of local food, farming, and conservation, we than you for your partnership.

This fall, CFAC embarked on a strategic planning process to best determine how we want to move forward into the next few years. CAFC has determined these top priorities:

Farmland Conservation: Protect all remaining farmlands, currently approximately 95,000 acres, within Missoula County’s Planning Regions with the greatest development pressure (Missoula, Evaro, Huson-Frenchtown and Lolo) by mitigation policies and other conservation tools within the subdivision regulations by 2021.

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Increase the number of successful beginning farmers and ranchers selling directly into the local food market and institutions (colleges, schools, hospitals etc.) in Western Montana to 25 new farmers by 2021.

Food Access and Local Market Development: Determine the percentage of local food purchased in western Montana and increase the market share to 20% in 2021, and up to 30% by 2030.

Of course, we have some specific steps to meet our lofty goals. For more information about those, please see our full strategic plan- now on our website. We hope you will get involved in our work. It is only with your support and dedication to local food and farms that we can be successful- together.

Thank you from all of us here at CFAC! For a detailed look at our programs, please check out our plan on our website, and give us a call to get involved.

 

New Financing Opportunities for Montana’s Farmers

Montana’s farmers and ranchers now have access to three new tools to finance their operations. This week, the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) in Missoula launched a statewide specialty crop mini-grant, a regional 0% interest loan, and a free technical assistance program for those considering Farm Service Agency financing in Western and Southwest Montana.

The Specialty Crop Mini-Grant program offers grants from $1,000 to $5,000 to specialty crop producers. CFAC Program Director Annie Heuscher says the goal of the grant program is to support beginning specialty crop producers and others to expand specialty crops across Montana. The grant application can be found online at http://missoulacfac.org/mini-grants.html and potential applicants are encouraged to contact Heuscher in advance of applying.

Also on offer are 0% interest, zero fee, crowdfunded loans through the international microlending platform, Kiva. CFAC has recently registered a trustee on the site and will be able to endorse local borrowers, increasing their likelihood of being funded on the site. Loans can be up to $10,000. More information about applying for endorsement from CFAC can be found at http://missoulacfac.org/kiva-zip.html.

Finally, CFAC was recently awarded a cooperative agreement with the Farm Service Agency to provide hands-on, one-on-one technical assistance to potential FSA borrowers in Western and Southwest Montana. CFAC provides introductory meetings for farmers to learn about the broad array of FSA programs, longer-term support with developing business, marketing, and financial plans, and assistance filling out and submitting FSA applications. More information about this opportunity can be found at http://missoulacfac.org/fsa-technical-assistance.html.

For more information on any of these programs, interested farmers and ranchers can also email Annie Heuscher at annie@farmlinkmontana.org.

Welcome Dave Renn, Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program Manager

Please join us in welcoming Dave Renn to the team at CFAC.

dave_renn_photoAs our Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Manager, Dave will focus on developing resources and coordinating trainings, workshops and field days for new entrants into Montana Agriculture. He will also be helping to promote and manage Farm Link Montana. He brings almost a decade of education experience to the BFR team, and he’s a beginning farmer himself, having worked in various capacities on farms in Oregon, Washington and Montana. He is currently trialing systems for poultry production and increased fertility on pasture land. Dave loves exploring the outdoors, climbing rocks and team sports of all kinds! We’re excited to have him on board!

New Crowdfunding Platform Comes to Farmers and Ranchers in Western Montana

Across the country and in Montana, one of the biggest challenges facing new, small farms is financing. Starting farming is a lean, slow process with small gains each year in exchange for providing great food for your community. But farmers still need capital to purchase seeds, equipment and more.

CFACKivaWith help from CFAC, Montana’s farmers and ranchers will now have access to a new type of funding: 0% interest, crowdfunded Kiva loans. Unlike sites like Kickstarter, which allow people to make donations to businesses and sometimes receive rewards for those donations, all of the money lent through Kiva is expected to be repaid 100%. Loans can be up to $10,000 and lenders can loan as little as $25. Farm borrowers may also have access to a six-month grace period before beginning loan repayment.

Kiva is perhaps best known for international microlending, with 2.1 million borrowers and 1.5 million lenders spread across 83 countries. Kiva loans have a 97.1% repayment rate, based on a unique type of loan review that Kiva calls “social underwriting.” Rather than being reviewed solely on the numbers, loans are evaluated based on the business plan and the character of the borrower.

This social underwriting happens in three stages. First, borrowers can be endorsed by “trustees,” people or organizations who evaluate the business and the borrower’s character. The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition has recently been approved as a Kiva trustee and will be able to endorse loans for their members. After CFAC and Kiva have approved the loan, the borrower goes through a private fundraising period when they have 15 days to get 5-40 (depending on loan size) of their friends, family, and customers to loan them at least $25, demonstrating that their contacts trust them and their business. Finally, the loan is opened for the public fundraising period and each lender reviews the business and can evaluate the borrower’s likelihood to repay before making a loan.

“We know that many of the farmers we work with have a hard time financing their business – especially during the early start-up stages,” says Annie Heuscher, program director for CFAC. “These loans won’t buy the farm, but a lot of times, farms are shut down because of costs that aren’t overwhelmingly huge – just poorly timed. By providing low-cost financing, we believe these Kiva loans will help our region’s farms and ranches expand and grow and stay steady through the inevitable storms.”

CFAC will be able to endorse five borrowers at a time and is considering having a launch event this fall to promote Kiva and the first five borrowers. For more information on Kiva funding and on being endorsed by CFAC, visit http://missoulacfac.org/kiva-zip.html or contact Annie Heuscher at annie@missoulacfac.org.