Winter 2021 Newsletter
Message From Reggie Knox, CEO
It’s been an amazing year for California FarmLink. The explosion of racial justice awareness and the continued impacts of the pandemic on farmers and supply chains resulted in unprecedented resources to strengthen local food systems and support communities of color. FarmLink and many of our partners and Community Development Financial Institution peers, accessed new resources and acted on bold new initiatives to redistribute wealth. [read more]
Earlier this year, FarmLink completed the deployment of 192 forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling more than $4.6 million, with the majority of loans going to farmers of color. And we recently launched a Farm Recovery and Resilience Fund that will provide 0% interest loans to qualifying low resource farmers.
To support future lending, we accepted two loan fund investments, each for $1 million, from new programs organized by Opportunity Finance Network – Grow with Google and the Finance Justice Fund, the latter funded with a $100 million impact investment from Twitter to support small business lending in communities of color nationwide. FarmLink’s successful track record, vision and commitment, enabled the organization to secure grants to expand our staff from 19 to 24 full-time positions in the coming year. Please share the job opportunities, outlined on our Careers page, with great candidates in your network.
Also on the Careers page we’ve posted a Request for Proposals seeking consulting expertise related to farmworker housing. We see opportunities for small- and mid-scales farmers to become more competitive by providing quality housing for their workforce. We aim to provide affordable loans for on-farm housing, and to help farmers navigate local, state and USDA programs that support farmworker housing, county land use ordinances, affordability and other factors. We’d appreciate any high-quality referrals!
During the past year, FarmLink has invested in advocacy for farmers of color, immigrant farmers, and beginning farmers. We chose to join the Southern Poverty Law Center in its amicus brief in response to lawsuits that stymied the American Rescue Plan Act’s investments in debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers. We detailed our position on that topic with our Congressman’s staff, and also advised senior USDA officials on FarmLink’s experiences in providing access to capital for farmers of color and immigrant farmers.
We also deepened our work related to regenerative and climate-smart agriculture. Next month we will release a new in-depth resource on regenerative grazing practices as they relate to land tenure and lease agreements, in particular. These new initiatives build and expand on our conservation lending partnerships with farmers and resource conservation districts, and I look forward to sharing more details in the months ahead.
All of this work relies on the generous support of our funders, donors and social impact investors. On behalf of our staff and board of directors, thank you for being part of FarmLink’s growth and development. Please consider giving to FarmLink before the end of year, including tax-wise options such as giving shares of appreciated stock. You can learn more and contribute here. Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!
El Resilerador: Business resilience for your family and future
Rigoberto Bucio, owner and operator of Bucio Organic Farm in Salinas has sought support from California FarmLink for over eight years, starting with an operating loan in 2013. In early 2020, Rigo joined our first convening of El Resilerador along with fifteen other growers based in the Central Coast. We’re now accepting applications for the next course that starts in February.
As an organization that provides business and development services, FarmLink focuses on collaboration, teamwork, and community input as keys to fulfilling our mission. After learning from our longtime relationships with Latina/o growers, we created El Resilerador specifically for Spanish-speaking farmers. The program content focuses on moving beyond the profit-and-loss statement to focus on long-term goals for building wealth. All instruction and discussion is conducted in Spanish within a collegial and candid context for farmers to share hopes and challenges.
When reflecting on his El Resilerador experience last winter, ‘Rigo’ found learning about taxation and how to accurately track prices across the market very insightful. However, what struck him most about the course was the emphasis on making sure your business is set up to secure financial well-being and making business choices that will support staff, family and community. Rigo said, “Without [my employees] we don’t do anything…so before getting to the taxes, the people come first.” This inspired him to take a finer look at his business and helped him analyze his options to help set up his business to support himself and his employees for not only the upcoming season but for the years to come.
See our blog for a Spanish-language version of this article.
California FarmLink receives a $2 million Wells Fargo grant
We’re thrilled to announce that FarmLink has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Wells Fargo Open for Business program. Thanks to the grant, FarmLink has established a Farm Recovery and Resilience Fund to expand access to affordable capital.
The grant will enable FarmLink to offer 0% interest loans for qualifying farmers and ranchers starting in January, along with education and assistance. Growers who have completed our education programs, or have enrolled in Winter 2022 courses, can access the 0% loans with no fees. The overall goal is to help businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever, prepared for future challenges. “We are thrilled to support California FarmLink and its Farm Recovery and Resilience Fund. Having access to trusted experts is critical for diverse farmers and ranchers facing financial hardships,” said Christina Pels-Martinez, region bank president, Wells Fargo. “This grant will help FarmLink continue its great work helping diverse and beginning farmers to succeed in California agriculture.”
Getting underway with The Regenerator: A Year of Farm Succession Planning
The inaugural cohort of farm families -’teams’- gathered in November to start a year-long process of creating actionable farm succession plans to ensure the health and continuity of their working farms and ranches. The program is designed around key milestones with ample time for families to make decisions together. As a cohort, they also seek support from their peers with whom they are sharing the journey. Reflecting on goals, one team reported that they are “Gaining tools for communication that will outlast the class…helping to deepen the relationships, communication, marriage of partnerships into the future.”
Growing support and demand for our Resilience and Wealth Building programs
Launched as a pilot three years ago, our Resilience and Wealth Building programs support farmers, ranchers and fishers with legal and financial skills to support the long-term sustainability of their businesses. The starting point for these programs are 10-week courses called The Resilerator and El Resilerador. We’re grateful for the amazing support of our new Lead Sponsor BriarPatch Food Co-op in Grass Valley and longtime Rainmaker Sponsor Farm Credit and its member associations serving all of California. The Resilience courses are cohort-based approaches with farmer alumni (aka resilerators) serving as guest speakers. Last winter farmers and ranchers from Siskyou to Los Angeles counties participated, and this year we had to create a waiting list as more than 40 people applied for the 30 seats available in the next course, starting in January; El Resilerador, starting in February, has a limited number of seats available for its in-person Spanish-language workshops in Salinas.
California FarmLink is Expanding!
We’re pleased to announce that California FarmLink is currently accepting applications for five full-time positions across the organization.
Business Skills Advisor: The Business Skills Advisor is a core member of FarmLink’s Land Access and Farm Business Education Program, and will work closely with the Lending Program as well. The Advisor will provide business technical support to FarmLink clients to assist in creating and managing sound business plans and accessing high-quality land tenure and appropriate financing.
Senior Associate, Land Access and Farm Business (LAFBE): This position plays a key role in supporting the educational activities of FarmLink’s Land Access and Farm Business Education Program (LAFBE) including:
*Resilience – an English-language farm business education program
*Wealth Building (La Resiliencia y La Prosperidad) – a Spanish-language farm business education program
*Equity and Conservation on Working Lands – a bilingual program for land access, land tenure, succession planning, and conservation
Senior Associate, Equity and Conservation on Working Lands (ECWL): The Senior Associate is a vital member of FarmLink’s Land Access and Farm Business Education Program, consisting of land tenure experts, business educators, and technical assistance providers. Serving as a technical assistance provider for farmers and landholders across California, the Senior Associate will manage relationships with farmers by administering FarmLink’s Land Portal and facilitating land tenure technical assistance tailored to farmers’ needs.
Loan Officer: This position plays a key role in FarmLink’s agricultural lending as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) providing underserved farmers and ranchers with access to capital. The Loan Officer will drive growth in FarmLink’s agricultural, mission-based lending in the San Joaquin and/or Sacramento Valleys through strong relationships with farmers and ranchers, lenders, and other referral partners.
Loan Operations Associate, Credit and Collections: This position will play a key role in FarmLink’s lending as an agricultural and fisheries focused CDFI, providing underserved farmers, ranchers and fishers with access to capital and technical assistance.
We encourage you to learn more about these positions and share them widely! You can find all of the open positions on our careers page.
A Moment to say Thanks…
We’d like to express our gratitude to our interns, Alex Christodoulou and Shivani Tambi, who supported our mission over the fall semester. Thank you so much for your good work! Also, thank you to our sponsors: California FarmLink’s educational programs are made possible in part by to lead Pathfinder Sponsor BriarPatch Food Co-op and Rainmaker Sponsor Farm Credit.