What Beginning Farmers Can Do with 27 New Farms: A 2017 Snapshot

Imagine a future where farmers have ample access to land, financing, hands-on learning, and viable markets to sell their products. This is just the kind of future CFAC’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher (BFR) program aims to achieve; the kind of future where a sustainable food system supports the family farms that feed us.

The average Montana farmer is 59 years old; with a vast land transfer on the horizon, what will Montana’s agricultural landscape look like in twenty years? CFAC’s BFR program kicked off in 2015 to offer answers to that important question. Through BFR, CFAC provides no or low-cost training, workshops, technical assistance, and financing tools to farmers in the early stages of business planning.

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Zach Johnson from Crow’s View Farm has benefited from many of BFR’s workshops and trainings.

The program also includes the web platform Farm Link Montana.  This platform offers one stop shop access to the above listed services as well as land for lease or sale, mentor/mentee opportunities, and on-farm employment, internships, and apprenticeships.  

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In 2017, beginning farmers and ranchers:

  • established 27 new farms with program assistance
  • leveraged a total of $117,000 in alternative financing tools to build infrastructure, improve efficiency, and expand production 
  • accessed resources on Farm Link Montana, which connected 7,500 users to land, mentorship, and training

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Beginning Farmer and Rancher 2017 Snapshot

The ever popular Planning for On-Farm Success workshop offers beginning farmers and established growers an in-depth curriculum centered around direct markets. These markets include typical avenues such as farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), restaurants, and stores, but it also gives producers insight into selling agricultural products to wholesale venues. Last year, the workshops were able to reach and benefit over 700 local farmers.

 

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Conserving Montana’s rich agricultural heritage is one key to ensuring the future of our state’s food security, because when family farms remain a valuable part of Montana’s identity, we all have access to the nutritious food they provide to communities big and small.

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To learn more about the BFR program and how you can contribute to local agriculture, visit CFAC’s website and farmlinkmontana.org.

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2017 SNAPshot of Double SNAP Dollars

The Double SNAP Dollars program began in 2015 to meet low-income community members’ desire to eat more fresh, healthy, local foods. The number one obstacle to eating more of those foods is being able to afford them on a limited budget – that’s why Double SNAP Dollars doubles the value of SNAP benefits at participating local food retailers. That means if someone spends $20 of their SNAP benefits at the Missoula Farmers Market, for example, they get a bonus – an additional $20 to spend on fruits and vegetables.

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In this way, folks with limited incomes can afford more of the healthy food they want while local farmers can capture a larger portion of the federal food assistance dollars being spent in Montana. It’s truly a win-win situation that is helping our local food system become more equitable. With two seasons under our belt we are excited to better understand the cumulative impacts of this program!

The 2016 season unveiled the Double SNAP Dollars logo, brand, and regional collaboration among local food retailers.  This initial launch resulted in significant increases in both program participation and SNAP sales of local foods (100% and 29% increases, respectively).

It is inspiration to get out to the farmers market and eat fresh food.

I love the fact that the extra money to buy good food is possible. Before DSD it was a nightmare.

The 2017 season sustained this level of participation, resulting in over $270,000 spent on local foods over the past two years! Check out our 2017 SNAPshot below for more key highlights from the past year.

 

 

 

2017 DSD SNAPshot

All told, we continue to see three main benefits of Double SNAP Dollars and look forward to continuing the program into 2018!

  1. Low-income community members can afford better quality and more of the fresh fruits and veggies they want and deserve
  2. Local farmers and food businesses expand their customer base and increase their sales
  3. Thousands of dollars are being injected into Montana communities and staying local

Double SNAP has enabled me to work through the summer and eat healthy, while working as a para for disabled kids – a job that is very important, but that pays less and has a ripple effect in our community. I hope people can understand that poverty is often associated with low-wage jobs – not laziness – and access to healthy food helps us to help others.

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This is magical. I appreciate my shopping choices being reinforced and supported by this program. It validates my health goals.

 

CFAC Seeks a Farm Business Finance and Grants Management Specialist

CFAC is hiring! Are you a numbers person, interested in helping farmers and ranchers in Western Montana find the resources they need to be successful?  CFAC is looking for a Farm Business Finance and Grants Management Specialist.  

This unique position provides financial services to both the organization internally (.25FTE) and to beginning farm and ranch businesses seeking business planning and financial assistance (.75FTE).  CFAC is looking for an engaging, motivated and personable candidate with the unique ability to convey technical, financial and business expertise in an easy to understand manner.

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The Farm Business Finance and Grants Management Specialist will connect farmers and ranchers in Western Montana to the resources they need to succeed. This position will provide small farm and ranch businesses with technical assistance and financial planning.

CFAC’s mission is to develop and strengthen Missoula County’s food system: promoting sustainable agriculture; building regional self-reliance; and assuring all citizens equal access to healthy, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food. CFAC facilitates dialogue, education, and collaboration within the community, encouraging creative problem-solving and proactive policy advocacy. It is essential for all staff, including the Farm Business Finance & Grants Management Specialist, to whole-heartedly embrace this vision and grassroots approach. As a small organization with a holistic mission, all staff contribute to projects across the organization, regardless of their job titles. More information about CFAC’s programs is available on our websites: http://www.MissoulaCFAC.org and http://www.farmlinkmontana.org. This is a full-time, year-round position with a competitive salary and benefits, that reports directly to the Executive Director.

RESPONSIBILITIES FARM BUSINESS FINANCE SPECIALIST

  • Provide and coordinate excellent farm-based business development services.
  • Enroll farm-business participants and provide one-on-one personalized consultation in developing business, financial, marketing, and financing plans.
  • Outreach to potential farmer participants for growth of the program.
  • Promote community investing and land access tools to connect farmers with local investors and alternative financing options.
  • Connect with service providers across the state for coordination of services.
  • Represent CFAC at conferences, workshops and other gatherings across the state, and nationally.

GRANTS MANAGEMENT

  • Assist Executive Director and program staff to develop and implement a grant tracking and reporting plan for all federal grant funds.
  • Develop and manage evaluation process and reporting for federal grants.
  • Report to the Executive Director and Board of Directors regularly, while maintaining self-direction.
  • Contribute to a highly productive, collaborative and positive work environment.

QUALIFICATIONS

  • In-depth experience with financial tools and small business development – preferably farm business.
  • Advanced training or experience in farm business management and accounting.
  • Working knowledge of alternative financing options.
  • General account management expertise.
  • Leasing contract knowledge preferred.
  • Grants management and budget development experience.
  • Good rapport building experience with farmers, ranchers and/or small business owners.
  • Understanding of and support for CFAC’s vision of a local food & agriculture system.
  • Excellent verbal communication, writing, and project management skills.
  • Proven ability to work independently, take initiative, and meet deadlines.
  • Proven ability to engage cooperatively and constructively with a diversity of stakeholders, staff, board members and volunteers.
  • Event planning and implementation experience preferred.
  • Solid computer skills, including Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, and donor database software. Quick Books and Salesforce experience preferred.
  • Fluency with social media (e.g., Facebook) is required.
  • College degree required, graduate degree preferred.

 

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Bonnie Buckingham at Bonnie@MissoulaCFAC.org. The cover letter should cover the following: a) how the applicant has a personal connection to CFAC’s mission and work; b) how the applicant’s past experience will strengthen CFAC’s outreach to the farm and ranch community; and c) how the applicant’s skills and disposition are a good fit for the position and organization (e.g., collaboration, account management, personal expertise, etc.).

The deadline for applications is February 15th, however the position will remain open until filled.

 

2018 Farm Fresh Pitchfest Business Spotlight: Brianna and Zach Ewert, Crow’s View Farm

On Thursday, February 1st, CFAC will host the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest, a live event where local farmers and food business owners pitch their entrepreneurial projects to a live audience of community members who want to meet their farmers and invest in local food. This year’s event will be held at Burns Street Bistro, and all are welcome to come mingle, enjoy locally-sourced hors d’oeuvres, and if the pitches compel you – make an investment of anywhere between $25-$10,000 toward a 0% interest Kiva loan.

We’re shining a spotlight on all four entrepreneurs who will make their Farm Fresh pitches. Today we feature Brianna and Zach Ewert of Crow’s View Farm.

Brianna and Zach have been working on building a farm business, in one way or another, for 8 years. Now that they have their own piece of land, they are modifying the infrastructure — which was set up for cattle — to grow organic vegetables which they’ll sell at the Ronan Farmers’ Market. While Zach has a track record of building high tunnels from re-purposed materials everywhere they’ve farmed, their loan opportunity will help them purchase their first ever “proper” high tunnel, bringing more diversity and value to the veggies they can offer.

Bri and Zach at farmers market

“Really the heart of the local food movement is knowing who produces your food, and it’s also knowing who eats your food,” said Brianna.

 

Learn more about Brianna and Zach Ewert and Crow’s View Farm in our Q&A:

Tell us about Crow’s View Farm.

The farm itself is a really special place – it’s overlooking Crow Creek, which is how it got its name Crow’s View Farm, and it’s right near a major wildlife corridor. The ranch has been grazed pretty hard, so we’ve spent the last 2 years figuring out plans for better management of the whole farm, rebuilding the soils, and how to best use the farm. We’ll probably always have something other than vegetables. Right now we’re building the veggie piece, and once we have that we’ll start raising animals. So then we’ll have a really resilient place.

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What will your loan opportunity allow you to do?

The Kiva loan will allow us to purchase and construct a 30′ x 72′ high tunnel that will extend our growing season and provide a microclimate that will help us produce more vegetables for the Ronan Farmers Market and more seed crops adapted for our farm. We have a contract through the NRCS EQIP cost share program that will reimburse us for the costs of buying the high tunnel, but we need the funds up front to purchase the tunnel. We will use the Kiva loan to purchase the high tunnel, and then we will use the NRCS reimbursement to pay back the loan. And, of course, we’ll use the high tunnel to grow more good food for our community!

Zach loves Home Resource, going there and looking for things and finding things there. He calls the ranch his own personal Home Resource. There’s lots of old buildings that are just full of things, and he loves treasure hunting and finding and building things.

Zach has a track record of building a greenhouse out of re-purposed materials everywhere we’ve farmed. When we moved here, he was in one of the shops and he found pipes that were the frame for something. He started putting it together and found he was missing some pieces. I was out one day and there was a burn pile of things, and underneath that was more pipe sticking out, so he put more of it together. He was able to fabricate the missing pieces by welding materials together, and he found an old door on the property. So we’ve been using that as our little makeshift greenhouse. The project for Pitchfest is going the be the first time we’re purchasing a proper high tunnel.

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How do you see the local food movement in Montana thriving or adapting in the coming years?

I’d say, local food in Missoula is amazing, but it’s still this tiny little piece. There are a lot of efforts, especially with the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative, to try to scale that up. If the local food movement wants to keep moving, it’s a matter of figuring out how to scale up to serve larger markets – which is happening – or, is there some other messaging, some other way of reaching people, to bring more people in. There’s the choir, and we know how to talk to those people, but how do you reach others?

What role do you see Crow’s View Farm playing in that movement?

It’s interesting to me being in the Mission Valley, because a lot of the food in Missoula is grown in the Mission Valley. But, you can’t get that food in the Mission Valley. There are some exceptions, some CSAs and some grocery stores. What we hope to do is help make that local food available in Ronan. Ronan has this amazing agricultural heritage. There’s still a strong agricultural base of farmland, and of people producing food here. However, it’s not always staying here. A big part of what Crow’s View Farm wants to do is to help make that good, local healthy food available here.

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If Ronan were a vegetable, which would it be?

The first thing that pops into my head is a beet – underappreciated, but very hardy. I fell in love with Ronan when I worked in the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative. I drove the northern route from Arlee up  to Polson, and I would drop off CSA shares and pick up food from farmers on my way back. I stopped at Ronan and I fell in love with it. Now that I live here, Ronan has such a great community and so many dedicated people. There’s an active chamber of commerce, they had this lights under the big sky event throughout December, and we have this amazing community hospital, and a lot of interest in the community in rebuilding Ronan’s Main Street. It’s this very resilient, dedicated, and hardy group of people. And, I also happen to love beets.

What are three adjectives you would use to describe the Ronan Farmers’ Market?

Small, Growing, Potential

Comody at Farmers Market

What are you most proud of in your business?

After becoming a full time working mom farmer, my expectations have been pretty scaled back. Just having a secure farmland arrangement is a huge thing, and it’s something we’re very proud of.

Each year, we’ve been planting more and more of our own seeds. We’ve been adding things that we grew the seed for the year before. And that means the variety is well-adapted to our farm setting, and it’s just making our farm more and more resilient. I’m proud that we can produce some of our own seed.

Bri planting seeds

What is one funny or memorable moment of your son on the farm that you want to share?

There’s been cattle there, and there were cattle there from someone who was leasing the land, and he let them graze everywhere. When we moved there, our son was one, and so he spent a lot of time picking up dried cow patties and waving them around in the air.

Oh, and this is a good memory: Because we had a lot of 1-year farming arrangements, we had never been able to plant a garlic crop. So last Fall we we planted our first garlic crop. We’d gotten the garlic from someone we know, two special varieties he’d been growing for a long time. For us, that was meaningful because Carmody was out there and he planted a huge amount of garlic.

Building the hoop house

Also, we call him Muddy for short. He loves when we turn on the irrigation he loves to go play in the water and the mud puddles.

Comody playing in irrigation

You can invest in Crow’s View Farm by making a loan at the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest on February 1st, 6-8 p.m., at Burns Street Bistro.

2018 Farm Fresh Pitchfest Business Spotlight: Shay Farmer, Bäckerei Provincial

 

On Thursday, February 1st, CFAC will host the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest, a live event where local farmers and food business owners pitch their entrepreneurial projects to a live audience of community members who want to meet their farmers and invest in local food. This year’s event will be held at Burns Street Bistro, and all are welcome to come mingle, enjoy locally-sourced hors d’oeuvres, and if the pitches compel you – make an investment of anywhere between $25-$10,000 toward a 0% interest Kiva loan.

We’re shining a spotlight on all four entrepreneurs who will make their Farm Fresh pitches. Today we feature Shay Farmer of Bäckerei Provincial.

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Farmer is starting her German bakery at the Wild Plum Station in Dixon, and her loan will fund start-up costs such as a wholesale license, kitchen supplies, and a grain mill.

“I’ve been thinking about wanting to have a small little place where you can get locally-produced food for a long time now,” said Farmer. “It’s always been “later, later…” but why not now?”

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Learn more about Farmer and her new business, Bäckerei Provincial, in our Q&A:

Tell me about your business idea.

I’ve just had people wanting to get bread from me, a gal at the farmers’ market, a Christmas event in Ronan…it’s been haphazard but now I’d like to move forward. A woman suggested a place in Dixon that had been all set up with a kitchen, so I introduced myself to the woman, Crystal, and she’s really excited about helping small entrepreneurs get going. She’s looking for someone with energy.

Once I’m set up in the kitchen, I’m going to start a community-supported bread share (CSB), which is a monthly subscription for bread where you get a fresh loaf every week available for pickup on Saturdays. We’re working on the kitchen, trying to get it all ready to go. Then, there’s different wholesale opportunities I want to pursue. At the kitchen there’s also a vacation rental (the Wild Plum Station in Dixon, MT) so I’m going to offer breakfast and lunch there.

Pink Building

What motivated you to start your business?

How long do you have to wait before you do the things you want to do? I come from a military family and we lived in Germany, where every town had a small little bakery and things were made with regional grains. It couldn’t be replicated because it was only made right there. I feel like some of our small towns are missing that right now, and this can bring a community together.

 

Who do you admire and why?

I admire anybody that’s willing to follow their dreams and work really hard to make it happen.

 

What are 3 adjectives you would use to describe your products?

Rustic, Regional, Delicious.

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Describe your ideal customer.

I don’t have an ideal customer! Whoever wants to come and eat good food. I’d love to get the folks in Dixon involved. There’s a lot of farmers in the area.

 

How do you hope your products will change your local community?

I really think the location is excellent. People are always walking by, there’s art, and it’s something people can be proud about – having regionally-produced foods. People have already been wondering what’s going on and seem kind of excited.

A rustic bakery logo

How will your business change your family?

My family spends a lot of time in the kitchen together already. I think there will be a lot of projects for us to work together on. I want to share what my family has – good food, nutrition, local food, and share it with a greater audience. It can just be simple and good.

 

What are you most proud of in your business?

Taking the plunge! We all have daydreams, but I’m actually putting some muscle into making it happen and not just selling bread outside my door.

 

What is one funny or memorable thing your husband has said about your business?

My husband has been really nervous about the whole thing, but then when he read my business plan he was like, “this sounds like a great idea!” I think that’s pretty funny. He always ends up supporting me.

Shay cookies

What are you most excited about for Pitchfest?

This is kind of going to be a coming out to the world. I’ve had these ideas and I’ve been trying to figure out how to make them happen behind closed doors. I just see Pitchfest as a time to present this to people and let them know that this really is happening. I went to Pitchfest last year and it’s so fun to see people getting involved in the funding process when they think a business is worthy. I’m also excited for all of the other businesses that will be featured too; they’re all really good people.

 

Anything else you want people to know?

I hope people will give the CSB a try, and maybe in a couple more months, stop by for breakfast or lunch!

 

You can invest in Shay Farmer’s business, Bäckerei Provincial, by making a loan at the 2nd Annual Farm Fresh Pitchfest on February 1st, 6-8 p.m., at Burns Street Bistro.