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Summer 2021 Newsletter

Summer 2021 Newsletter

Note From Reggie Knox, Executive Director

Dear friends,

The pandemic altered the ways that FarmLink supports small farm businesses and provides fair financing to low-income families, beginning farmers, and farmers of color. We received an unprecedented number of loan inquiries as farmers and ranchers learned that we could process Paycheck Protection Program loans – over the past year, FarmLink provided forgivable PPP loans for $5 million.

As summarized in our 2020 Annual Report, the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges and opportunities. It made clear the pitfalls of our reliance on an industrial food system, and also the ways that people value locally grown food and direct marketing relationships with farmers.

In 2020 we invested in our Land Access and Farm Business Education programs. The Resilerator/El Resilerador are new courses that resemble business accelerators, but with emphasis on long-term resilience and sustainable profits and practices rather than an accelerated sprint towards short-term profits. Offered separately in English and Spanish to cohorts of farmers via Zoom, the programs begin with each participant completing our Business Resilience Self-Assessment.

In November, FarmLink will launch The Regenerator: A Year of Farm Succession Planning, a cohort-based learning model where farm families will learn from each other as they make a journey together to establish farm succession plans. With a majority of farmland set to change hands in the next 20 years, it’s urgent that we help farmers and ranchers create plans to sustain their businesses in ways that support next-generation producers.

Reggie Knox
Executive Director

The Regenerator: A Year of Farm Succession Planning

Are you a farmer or rancher in the Sacramento region planning to retire, and wondering
what will happen to your land and business? Thinking about the future can be difficult. We’re here to help you map out your course.

There are nearly six times more California farmers aged 65 or older than there are farmers who are under 35. Many older farmers and their families find it difficult to retire while preserving the farm business. In response to this opportunity for the next generation, California FarmLink is launching The Regenerator: A Year of Farm Succession Planning.

The Regenerator is designed as a comprehensive program to help farm and ranch families generate a plan and support the process of passing farm ownership and management to the next generation. Each family that meets planning benchmarks will be eligible to receive up to $1600 in professional services of their choosing to complete their succession plan. Starting in November, the course will combine online meetings with in-person convenings in Sacramento. Applications are due by July 1. Reserve your seat at the table today!  Learn more and apply here.

Responding with PPP loans totaling $5 million

As the pandemic shutdowns took hold more than a year ago, we began to receive an unprecedented number of loan inquiries as word spread among farmers and ranchers that we could provide forgivable loans through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. During PPP Round 1 last year we processed 112 loans for $2.5 million. This year we opened the doors for Round 2, which ended on May 31. Brett Melone, Director of Lending, estimates that 106 PPP loans totaling $2.5 million were processed in Round 2, for a total of $5 million in forgivable loans! Brett commented, “The loan team has done an amazing job mobilizing resources for farmers during the pandemic. I’m proud and grateful for their hard work.”

It’s amazing to reflect back, just over two years ago. At the end of 2018 we had $4 million in total loans outstanding; today that number is around $9.5 million. And that number does not include the PPP loans. FarmLink is scaling up its work in many ways. This year we’re mobilizing strategic investments in staff talent, approaches to business education, and new information technology to meet farmers’ needs for our lending, education, and land tenure assistance: pursuing our mission to invest in the prosperity of farmers and ranchers.

Farmers are getting resilerated by the Resilerator

During the winter and spring, nearly 30 farmers and farm educators experienced  California FarmLink’s Resilerator. It’s a 10-week course similar to a business accelerator, but the emphasis is on long-term resilience and sustainable profits and practices rather than an accelerated sprint towards short-term profits. Now they’re resilerated and ready to vanquish weaknesses in their business practices.

The course is also presented in Spanish, as El Resilerador, and both courses begin with farmers completing our Business Resilience Self-Assessment, which helps farmers to establish a baseline of knowledge and define areas for improvement. The program also includes meaningful peer-to-peer learning, with farmers often serving as co-teachers.

FarmLink programs consultant Poppy Davis designed The Resilerator with input from our staff and farmers. She explains, “We start and end with the self-assessment tool, and in the middle we deliver context. Mastering the subject matter may take the farmer or rancher another few years – and we want to be along to support them in that journey – but the Resilerator is about giving them a comprehensive overview of all the knowledge and practices they will eventually need to master, and helping them take a first pass at prioritizing what they want to prioritize.”

Kerry McGrath, program manager, was recently quoted in Edible Marin and Wine County about the Resilerator, “In the course, farmers are diving into the kinds of topics that are easily put aside. But these are things that farmers need to know about: business structures, taxes and insurance. For some farmers, it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid; they know it needs to be done, and we’re providing the course and one-on-one follow-up to ease the sting.”

Sonoma County farmers Sarah Silva of Green Star Farm and Jenny Trotter of Kibo Farm, both of whom hold the distinction of being Resilerators, aka course graduates, are also quoted in the Edible article. They reflect on the value of learning from their peers, investing the time necessary to adjust their business’ charts of accounts and using more cash flow analysis than emotion to chart future growth. 

Here’s how some farmers expressed their action plans as a result of becoming resilerated:

  • “I’m looking forward to creating more professional profit/loss and cash flow documents and projecting them out for a few years so that I can make more educated decisions.”
  • “Figuring out what major decisions have to be made next. Hiring people to help me with accounting and legal issues.”
  • “Rebooting my farming business life, so just about every area from the course will be incorporated to one degree or another. Most immediately, I am reimagining my business in a way that requires less working capital/small loans or investments to grow.”

The most recent Resilerator enrolled farmers from Siskiyou to Los Angeles counties,
whereas
El Resilerador focused on Spanish-speaking farmers in the Monterey Bay region. Graduates become eligible for additional workshops, including one-on-one technical assistance and small-group bookkeeping clinics to maintain the momentum and help farmers achieve their goals.

If you’re interested in the next El Resilerador in Spanish, let us know with a quick sign-up here, or The Resilerator in English, sign-up here.

California FarmLink welcomes new staff and board members!

 

Flor Blancas has joined our staff team as Lending Associate. She is a recent graduate from California State University Monterey Bay with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, concentrating in Agribusiness. She also has an Associate’s degree in Sociology from Hartnell Community College in Salinas. Flor grew up in the Salinas Valley, making her passion for local agriculture grow with every season.

 

New FarmLink board member Keir Johnson-Reyes is a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma and works for Intertribal Agriculture Council as Director of the Technical Assistance Program and the Pacific Region Technical Assistance Specialist. Keir serves 136 California and Nevada Tribal communities and individual agricultural producers by assisting with eligibility, access, and interface involving federal, state, local, and organizational resources.

 

For more than 15 years, new board member Mariela Cedeño has catalyzed strategies that cultivate local economies and resilient food systems. As the principal of Orikaika Ventures, Mariela serves as an advisor, partner, and advocate for the development of new models of investment and economic opportunity that center and uplift BIPOC entrepreneurs, farmers, and community-based organizations. Prior to launching Orikaika, Mariela was Interim Executive Director of Mandela Partners – an Oakland based non-profit organization that works to increase access to healthy food, good jobs, and ownership opportunities.

 

Meredith Storton has joined the FarmLink Board of Directors. She works at RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit lender that provides values-aligned financing to social enterprises. As a Lending Manager of the Food & Agriculture portfolio, Meredith guides strategy and deploys capital in support of resilient, regional food systems. She was a 2018-2019 RSF Integrated Capital Fellow, an institute designed to train financial activists to leverage capital as a tool for positive change.

 

Shyam Kamath, Ph.D. — founding Dean of the College of Business at California State University Monterey Bay — is joining the board as an internationally recognized scholar and educator who has gained recognition as a global innovator and expert in the areas of international economics, business management, and business program innovation. He has more than 35 years of experience in international education management, international economic development and management, sustainable enterprise formation, global business consulting and university teaching.

 

Wesley Van Camp has also joined our Board of Directors. She is Vice President, Legal and General Counsel, at Tanimura & Antle, where she has worked for 15 years. She is responsible for the company’s legal matters, as well as the corporate affairs, including public, community, and government relations. Wesley successfully spearheaded the development of Spreckels Crossing, a residential community for Tanimura & Antle’s seasonal agricultural employees. She champions workforce development strategies, and serves on the Board of Goodwill Central Coast.

2020 Annual Report 

Read our 2020 Annual Report to learn more about the work made possible with your involvement, support and collaboration.

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