The mission of California FarmLink is to link independent farmers and ranchers to the land and financing they need for a sustainable future.
Established in 1999, California FarmLink has developed a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state. A 2011 survey of 1,000 beginning farmers identified lack of capital (78%) and land access (68%) as the two biggest challenges faced by beginning farmers (National Young Farmers Coalition). In the US, the cost of agricultural land has doubled in the past 15 years. To help farmers access land and capital, grow their businesses and create jobs, in three regions of California, FarmLink works directly with farmers in three main program areas:
A Land Access Program maintains a central online hub of land for lease or sale, connects landowners and farmers, helps them negotiate strong leases, and supports farmers seeking financing for land purchases. Succession planning workshops help farm families pass farming businesses and assets to the next generation.
The Farm Opportunities Loan Program provides flexibly structured financing to underserved, low-income, immigrant and beginning farmers across the state for operating, equipment and infrastructure loans. The average loan size is currently $24,000. FarmLink’s loan program serves borrowers who would otherwise have a difficult time securing financing due to limited history as entrepreneurs and resulting need for technical assistance; limited traditional collateral; limited or no credit history; small loan size required; language barriers; and non-traditional marketing and business models. FarmLink also directs farmers to other appropriate alternative sources of financing suited to the scale and type of the farming business.
An Individual Development Account (IDA) matched savings program helps beginning, low-resource farmers build business equity. Farmers deposit approximately $100 a month into a savings account, and those funds are matched at a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 over a two-year period. During this time farmers receive education in financial literacy, business planning and credit management. At the end of the savings period, the funds in the IDA account can be used to buy an important asset for the farm. This was the first IDA program in the country specifically created for farmers. Since its inception in 2003, 24 farmers have successfully completed the California FarmLink IDA Program.
Farm business support and training is the hallmark of California FarmLink’s work. Regional coordinators and lending staff in the Central Coast, North Coast and Central Valley regions provide one-on-one coaching, workshops, small group trainings, technical assistance and resources directly to farmers. FarmLink has provided business support to more than 3000 farm businesses in 32 counties.
- Since our inception, we have created or assisted with over 125 successful leases, partnerships, and other arrangements tailored to the needs of the landowners and growers.
- In 2012, conducted 60 educational and outreach events, including mixers to introduce new farmers and landowners.
- Reached over 1600 farmers and educators in 2012 with topics that covered land access, leases, farm financing, business planning, farmland preservation, and preparing for the next generation of farmers.
- Provided individual technical assistance to 480 beginning, limited-resource, and socially-disadvantaged farmers. We provided guidance and resources on land seeking, leases, loans and finance, business planning, and farm transitioning.
- In 2010, became a certified independent lender with the Department of Corporations, filling a critical niche and serving small, direct-market, limited resource, organic and beginning farmers.
- Gained "Guaranteed Lender" status with the USDA Farm Service Agency in 2011.
- In 2012, made 23 direct loans to small-scale farmers. These loans, previously unavailable to these under-served growers, ranged from $5,000 to $25,000. Growers purchased plants and seed, bought tractors, and fixed a cooler. They also preserved and created 70 jobs.