BSW recently received detailed profiles (see below) of two of the borrowers selected for the Maine Farm Business Loan Fund, a project BSW IMPACT investors helped fund in May 2010. The Maine Farm Business Loan Fund targets small and midsized family farms utilizing sustainable or organic farming practices and serving markets within Maine or nearby states. In collaboration with two non-profits, The Carrot Project of Massachusetts (www.thecarrotproject.org) and Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Maine (www.ceimaine.org), BSW’s IMPACT investors helped capitalize the $150,000 loan fund, which will provide loans to sustainable farms for working capital, equipment, buildings, or other improvements. See a complete Blog post regarding the effort here.
Village Farm (www.villagefarmfreedom.com)
Prentice Grassi and Pauline Shyka
Village Farm is located in Freedom (population 700), in the rolling hills of Waldo County in Central Maine. The farm is just outside of town and is unusual in its 40 contiguous acres of fields surrounded by frontage on busy Belfast Road, woodlands, and Freedom Pond. Village Farm started slowly, growing over the last four years, with the goal of being a resource for the community, and for Waldo and Knox counties. Owners Prentice Grassi and Pauline Shyka take a tremendous amount of pride in their operation and in the high standard they’ve set themselves — to provide only the best locally grown organic food to their 30 community supported agriculture customers and the region.
Village Farm offers a wide variety of products to the public: more than 100 varieties of vegetables started from seed, 25 varieties of herbs, and 30 varieties of flowers. They are a wholesale nursery for FEDCO trees and offer direct sales of seedlings and potted dahlias to local gardeners and coastal landscapers. In addition, their direct sale of dairy products and meats to local customers represents 12% of total farm sales.
Together, Prentice and Pauline have 27 years of farming experience. Each year they provide internships to four farmer-students who live, work, and learn on the farm under the tutelage of Pauline and Prentice, just as they themselves learned to farm when they were starting out. The loan they received from the Maine Business Loan Fund was used to add irrigation equipment and a super-insulated greenhouse that eventually will be wood-heated, with propane as backup. The greenhouse will allow Village Farm to offer organic seedlings to area farmers as well as for their own crop production. The loan will provide greater financial opportunity for Prentice and Pauline, allowing them to realize higher produce yields, attract more visitors to their farm, and further diversify their offerings year round.
Chuck and Katie Landry
Hiland Farm has been in the Landry family for three generations. Chuck has worked on the family farm his entire life, with his father and grandfather, in their farm-based businesses. The farm’s 200 acres were originally purchased in 1903; up until 1987 it was a working dairy farm. In that year and out of necessity, given the regional downturn in family-run dairy farms, the Landrys successfully converted the operation to high-quality horse hay production. They are suppliers to small-to-mid-sized horse farms in York County, as well as to some farms in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Landrys’ careful research into requirements for expanding the new enterprise — soil quality, seeds, nutrients, and machinery — has allowed the business to grow so that, by 2008, it was producing 50,000 bales of prime horse hay in first, second, and third crop square and round bales. They work their acreage and lease an additional 220 acres. There are only five farmers in York County that sell strictly hay; given the past two rainy seasons, the demand is great for quality horse hay.
Chuck and Katie have a solid reputation among horse owners in the region as high-quality hay producers. While Katie helps on the farm, keeps the books, and works for a local engineer, Chuck is resourceful and can do many things to augment their hay income. In the past he has done excavating with his father. This fall, he will be selling firewood (he owns a firewood processor free and clear), and has already negotiated prices with local logging companies to purchase log-length hardwood at $100 per cord. He will process it at four cords per hour and will receive $225–$250 per cord — cut, split, and delivered. He also plans to offer a horse boarding service once cash flow will accommodate the build-out, and has already been approached by several horse owners interested in this service. The borrower has spent his entire life and career on the farm and is intent on making the business work.
Hiland Farm employs four seasonal/full-time employees during the haying season. The Landrys are also working with the Maine Society for the Protection of Animals by providing hay supply for equine rescue to their satellite rescue farms. Hiland Farm will store their hay for free and the customers come to the farm when the MSPA sends them. Loan funds will be used to make necessary repairs on key equipment and to fertilize leased fields, thereby increasing yields by the second, and potentially third, crop of the season (the money crop), weather permitting.