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.

More Awards for Double SNAP Dollars!


As temperatures warm, the sun shines, and the farmers’ market season gets into full swing, Missoula is once again awash in fresh, local produce. And along with it, even more Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will be able to participate in Double SNAP Dollars thanks to generous awards from the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) program, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, and United Way of Missoula County.

On June 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $16.8 million in FINI funding for grant projects that help low-income consumers participating in SNAP purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives, increasing access to fresh, healthy food while increasing markets for local farmers. We are happy to announce that Double SNAP Dollars was one of these programs! You can read more about the FINI program here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fini-awards-2016/

In addition, we are honored to have local support for Double SNAP Dollars from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and the United Way of Missoula County; both foundations recognize the importance of health in improving the quality of people’s lives and building a better community for all. Thanks to their generous donations and USDA FINI funding, Double SNAP Dollars is prepared to expand, providing opportunities for more families to eat better on a budget by providing a one-for-one match when SNAP benefits are used to buy local fruits and vegetables at participating retail locations. With its focus on local food, the program not only helps SNAP shoppers  buy more healthy food, it helps our local growers gain new customers and keeps more food dollars in our local economy.

This program was first piloted last year in collaboration with the North Missoula Community Development Corporation and Missoula Community Food Cooperative, Clark Fork Market, Missoula Farmers’ Market, and Western Montana Growers’ Cooperative. During the pilot year, over $20,000 worth of SNAP benefits were matched for over 300 families at these four locations. CFAC is excited to continue coordinating this collaborative program and serve more SNAP participants, local growers, and local businesses!

The following locations offer Double SNAP Dollars in Missoula:

  • Clark Fork Market, located under the Higgins Bridge, in the Riverside Parking Lot, just east of Caras Park in downtown Missoula: Every Saturday from 8am – 1pm (May 7 – Oct 29)
  • Missoula Farmers’ Market, located at Circle Square, North Higgins Avenue: Every Saturday from 8am – 12:30pm (May 7 – Oct 29); Every Tuesday 5:30pm – 7pm (July 7 – Sept 22)
  • Missoula Community Food Cooperative, located at 1500 Burns Street: Open 7 days a week, all year. M-F 10am-8pm; Sat-Sun 10am-5:30pm
  • Western Montana Growers Cooperative Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), delivers local produce boxes to the Bitterroot, Missoula, and Mission valleys, Helena and Butte, May – November

Double SNAP Dollars are available at more locations throughout Montana too!

Columbia Falls Community Market

Operates Thursdays, 5pm – 7:30pm, starting May 19, 2016
Located at “The Locals’ Market”, 830 1st Ave W

Polson Farmers’ Market

Operates Fridays, 9am – 1pm, starting May 6, 2016
Located  at 3rd Avenue W, in front of the Cove Deli

Whitefish Farmers’ Market

Operates Tuesdays, 5pm – 7:30pm, starting May 24, 2016
Located at the North end of Central Avenue

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Farmer Field Days Coming Soon!

No one knows more about farming than farmers themselves.  That’s why the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition is hosting a series of workshops starting Wednesday, May 25th to help farmers share their expertise.

Photo by Laurie Childs

Photo by Laurie Childs

Field days are free, on-farm, farmer-led events.  The workshops are geared towards people who are just at the beginning of their farm exploration – interns and pre-start-up farmers – but are open to beginning and established farmers of all ages and backgrounds.

The first field day will be at Ploughshare Farm, an 18-acre diversified vegetable and livestock operation in Moiese. Owners Nicole and Cale sell their produce at the Missoula and Polson Farmers’ Markets and through the Western Montana Growers’ Co-op and via that experience, they have gained a great depth of knowledge over the past eight years about how to successfully grow for a farmers’ market. Nicole will discuss crop and harvest planning and will host an interactive demonstration on setting up an effective farmers’ market booth.

Four additional field days will be held throughout the summer, with topics covering starting up an organic orchard and vineyard, producing vegetable seeds, growing weed-free onions, and managing resources on a diverse livestock operation.

For more info on this and other field days, visit http://missoulacfac.org/2016-field-days.html.

Zero Percent Interest Loans for Farmers

We are excited to announce that the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition is now a Kiva Zip trustee! This means that we provide endorsements to food and farm businesses in Montana who are seeking a loan on Kiva Zip’s platform.

To learn more about borrowing or lending, visit http://missoulacfac.org/kiva-zip.html

Note: If we get enough interest over the summer (which we know is a tough time of year!), we may hold a Pitchfest in September to help launch the first handful of Kiva Zip loans! If you’re interested, please email Annie at annie@missoulacfac.org ASAP.

Kiva Zip loans are:

  • Social Impact Investments, meaning participating businesses have a positive impact on their communities
  • Crowdfunded, meaning anyone on earth can lend money – from $25 to $10,000
  • 0% Interest, meaning lenders do not gain an additional return beyond what they lent
  • Zero Fees, meaning that neither Kiva nor CFAC charges any fees for this service
  • Up to $10,000, although borrowers are encouraged to apply for smaller amounts
  • For terms from 6 months to 36 months, depending on your loan amount