By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The goal of the newly launched Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Assoc. (OEFFA) Investment Fund is to promote sustainable agriculture in Ohio.
The fund will make capital available to OEFFA member farmers and farm-related businesses, said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA. The organization partnered with local investors in this groundbreaking initiative.
“In the last year, we have focused a lot of attention on the challenge that diversified farms and food entrepreneurs face in accessing capital, which is always a challenge, but even more so in this demanding economic environment,” she said.
At OEFFA’s 2012 annual conference, a full-day intensive workshop was devoted to capitalizing the local food economy; the keynote speaker was Woody Tasch, the founder of Slow Money, Goland said. This partnership between OEFFA and the investors emerged from that work.
“The investors – we found them and they found us,” she said. “We’re aware that farming is a capital-intensive business. The lack of access to capital has prohibited some people from expanding their businesses as they would like to do, which seems tragic given the amount of interest in local, sustainable and organic foods these days.”
The investors are people interested in making a modest return on their investments, she said, but are equally motivated by their values. They want to get some return but also want to see their money at work for something in which they believe.
Goland said the fund would be happy to see an application from anyone who has authentically embraced the principles of sustainable agriculture, but their businesses must also be financially viable.
Most of the successful applications for business loans will probably be in the $5,000-$50,000 range, but other structures such as equity and revenue-sharing agreements will be considered, Goland said. During the first year the minimum amount funded will be $2,500 and the maximum, $250,000.
The application will be a two-part process; an initial questionnaire will determine eligibility. After that, people may be invited to submit the second part of the application, which requests much more detail and financial information.
“The advice would be to fill out everything completely, we would like to be able to move these applications through quickly and give people decisions back quickly so that they can take the next steps in their business,” Goland said. “They have to help us by also doing their part of the work completely and accurately.
“Also, people should think of this as incentive. If they don’t have business plans, if they are not disciplined about monitoring their business finances, they should understand that those things will be requested of them as part of this application process. That is not just to jump through hoops for us, but also to help them develop their business management skills and practices. Some of the things we’re asking them to do should be seen as a benefit to them.”
The fund is open to Ohio-based members in good standing. Applications will be approved by its investment committee based on its review of the information. For more information go to www.oeffa.org/invest.php or contact Goland at 614-421-2022, ext. 202, or firstname.lastname@example.org