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Pilot Loan Program for Black Belt Farmers

NARLF has partnered with Emerging ChangeMakers Network (ECN), a Mobile-based non-profit, to establish a pilot loan program to assist farmers in the Black Belt Region in accessing capital that will allow them to expand their production. This pilot program will provide funding to make multiple small loans between $1,000 and $5,000 to farmers in a value chain with the Deep South Food Alliance for their Leafy Green Value Chain Project. The program will lend to businesses that economically contribute to the community, offer livable wages to employees or ownership opportunities to the borrower, and are environmentally responsible. Loan funds will be used for start-up capital, labor costs and equipment purchases. In order to accomplish this goal while also minimizing risk, ECN will guarantee individual loans made by NARLF. The goal is to help small and mid-sized farming enterprises in Alabama grow and prosper, fostering overall economic development in the Black Belt region. During the pilot phase of the ECN partnership, NARLF will test lending patient capital in a way that is borrower friendly and non-traditional. Additionally, to ensure success of the investment, ECN will work with the applicant business to provide technical assistance to help guide the business in making sound decisions and provide access to best practices in the field.

Through its Leafy Green Value Chain Project, the Deep South Food Alliance is already working with approximately 20 farmers to provide high quality food at a reasonable cost. In the summer of 2012, DSFA produced over 12,000 pounds of leafy greens and is expanding its production to include snap peas and sweet potatoes. Participation in this pilot program has the potential to demonstrate a new model of agricultural lending and hopefully, increase capacity in the agricultural lending sector throughout the State of Alabama. Lending to small and mid-sized food system businesses within the State of Alabama increases the ability of local farmers to meet the needs within the State thereby reducing dependence upon food systems outside of Alabama. The impact has already been felt in north Alabama where three restaurants and the Food Bank of North Alabama are already purchasing products from DSFA.

Click the link below for additional information about ECN’s work in the Black Belt and NARLF’s participation in the pilot program.