Farm Food Initiative helps meet demand for healthy local food

New Hampshire is one of the hardest states in which to make a living farming. Just 27% of N.H. farm operators report making a profit; the national average is 46%.

Woman in bakery making sweet breadBut that may be changing, driven partly by a growing awareness among consumers and institutions of the nutritional and economic value of locally produced food:

  • The N.H. Farmers Market Association lists 71 summer and 28 winter farmers markets.
  • The state has more than 50 community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms and two community-supported fisheries that deliver fresh food to members.
  • Keene and Littleton have new food co-op stores, and Manchester and Walpole want to add to that list.

The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s Farm Food Initiative helps farmers and food producers meet that growing demand by providing loans, customized technical assistance, and connections to new markets.

When Ben Fisk of Ben’s Maple Products in Temple needed a loan for a couple tractor-trailer loads of maple syrup, he had few options. Even though his gross sales had soared—more than 2,300% in just five years—he had minimal collateral.

The Community Loan Fund's Business Finance team had the flexibility to deliver a loan to meet his short-term need, and we provided a scholarship for Ben to work with a financial consultant. Both set his business up for more financing in the future.

“That was huge for them to be willing to do that,” he said of the Community Loan Fund. “They want their money back, but they also want to make sure you do well.”

Young man making maple syrup“If I didn’t find the Community Loan Fund I’d probably be shut down,” says Jenny Gilligan, owner of Abigail’s Bakery in Weare. When her business’s septic system failed, she couldn’t get a loan to replace it. A farmers market vendor suggested she contact the Community Loan Fund.

Along with a loan to replace the failed system, Jenny received referrals to financial planners and a scholarship to work with one of them on bookkeeping and tax preparation. With that came valuable cost-cutting and marketing suggestions, including selling her bread online, as well as business connections.

That assistance has been “awesome,” she says. “Getting the loan has given me all these other outlets that I never would have found.”

This story originally appeared in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's 2014 annual report