Completed applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are reviewed by a peer loan fund advisory board. An initial screening will take place and applicants who are declined at this point will be notified. The applicants who are still in the selection pool may get a site visit by the loan fund officer after an initial screening is completed. Final decisions will be made by the Loan Fund Advisory Board. The loan fund will conduct a credit history check at its own expense.
OEFFA has increasingly focused on the challenges small, independent family farmers using sustainable agricultural practices face in accessing capital in order to start or expand their businesses. At our 33rd annual conference we devoted a full day to exploring the capitalization of the local food economy. We have continued to discuss these issues with interested members of the community.
In November 2012, OEFFA announced a partnership with a group of socially-motivated local investors for the purpose of making flexible and affordable capital available to OEFFA members employing ecologically sound agricultural practices. We seek to work with businesses and projects that are financially viable, yet remain “non- bankable” in today’s environment.
As most of us know, traditional lenders and investors are often turned off by the high costs associated with small transactions, do not fully understand the emerging nature of local and regional food markets, and are used to working with large monoculture farms rather than those that are small and diversified. Moreover, such “unconventional” farmers and entrepreneurs often lack personal capital, an equity base, sufficient credit, and the needed tools and training to convert farm production plans into the formal “business plans” required by financial institutions.
All these challenges are compounded by the prevailing restricted access to capital for small business, the national trends of agricultural lending over the last few decades, and the turmoil in the financial industry over the last few years. Yet, demand for local, healthy food keeps growing, creating a highly dynamic business environment filled with many opportunities that, sadly, remain unfulfilled because of the lack of conventionally available financing. Hence, the launch of the OEFFA Investment Fund is a timely and appropriate response to both opportunity and challenge as we search for and deploy new solutions to capitalize a better food system.
The OEFFA Investment Fund is the "farmer's source for financing." Firmly committed to investing in our communities and improving the local food economy, the purpose of the Fund is to make available needed capital to OEFFA members' small to medium-size businesses involved in the production, processing, and/or distribution of sustainably produced agricultural products.
Decisions regarding loans and other investments have been entrusted to an investment committee comprised of six individuals: two members appointed by the fund's investors, two members appointed by OEFFA, and two outside members from the financial sector.
The Dr. Thelma I. Schoonover Fund of The Columbus Foundation provided key support during the pilot phase of this project.
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus OH 43214
Phone: (614) 421-2022 Fax: (614) 421-2011