Now that we have the agreement of Keith’s parents to have a portion of the family’s acreage signed over to us for Runamuk, I’ve been plowing along trying to finalize the details of the arrangement, while also exploring possible avenues for financing. In order for Runamuk to be a profitable and self-sustaining business we need to make the leap from a minor operation in a backyard, to an actual farming enterprise. I’m not just running a family homestead–I’m actually in business to make money in order to support my family and my land. In order to do that I need the appropriate facilities to expand our operation, including a house to live in!
Having been a stay-at-home homeschooling Mama for the last nine years, I have no verifiable credit of my own, and my ability to acquire a loan through a bank seems highly unlikely. So I set up an appointment with the folks at my local Farm Service Agency in Skowhegan to get information about loans and programs through the federal government.
The ladies there were incredibly nice and very helpful. My appointment was Tuesday at 10 and it was raining, but I didn’t mind, every day is filled with sunshine now that I have land for my farming and conservation efforts. Elaine Moceus met with me first to establish my farm in the FSA’s system. It turned out that the Burns’ property was already listed there, and for the time being we set me up as the farm’s operator, with my in-laws still listed as owners. Once I have the Deed to my own portion, I can go back and Elaine will adjust it as such in the database.
Once I was set up in the system as the official operator of my farm, I spoke with a loan specialist–and I feel awful, but I’ve forgotten her name! I’m sure I will make a mental note of it next time I see her, but either way she was just as friendly and helpful as Elaine. She gave me the scoop on the FSA loan programs.
Essentially what we need to establish Runamuk on the Burns property is a real-estate loan, which is a direct loan through the FSA, with 40-year terms. In order to qualify for this loan I need to be able to prove that I have been farming for at least three years, and I need to have sufficient collateral to borrow against, this will include my land, my livestock (namely my bees), and any equipment or machinery we own (which is essentially none at this point). They will take into consideration Keith’s off-farm income as well.
FSA does not consider credit scores in their loan process, but they do check an applicant’s credit history. This works for me, since I have no discernible credit score, but I do have bills that I pay.
As a woman farmer I may gain a bit of an edge in acquiring financial assistance, since the government has target funds for socially disadvantaged farmers. I will take advantage of whatever opportunities are there for me. Between the FSA and the NRCS there are a lot of programs I would love for Runamuk to participate in–but more about that later.
In the up-coming months I will be working on my production history–I need to organize my records and receipts to verify my agribusiness over the last two years, and as we move into our third year I will be able establish my qualifications for a direct-farm loan. But the big question now is when the politicians in Washington will pass the farm bill. Until they do there is no funding at the FSA or the NRCS for anything.