June 18, 2018
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Maine farmers get an early boost to prepare for growing season, using customers as lenders

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Maine farmers looking for a financial boost as spring approaches gathered Saturday afternoon in hopes that the community would help them get a start on the season without going deep into debt.

Nine area farms attended a Community Supported Agriculture Fair at Hammond Street Congregational Church, where locals met the farmers and had the opportunity to sign up for shares in their farms by paying in advance for vegetables, eggs or meat products throughout the season.

Most farmers at the event said early spring typically is one of the more financially difficult times of year. Farms need to invest in seeds, planters and other supplies to prepare for the coming season, but income is hard to come by during winter months.

For that reason, some farms look to customers for support, rather than using credit or pursuing a loan that will put them into debt.

Clayton Carter of Cornerstone and Fail Better Farms in Etna said most of a farm’s expenses occur in the first three months of the season, but farms don’t see most of their income until the last three months.

“[Selling shares] allows me to avoid really expensive credit card debt. You’re basically using your customers as lenders,” lenders who get paid back in vegetables, Carter said.

Rachel Katz of Terranian Farm in Troy said that it can be “daunting” to sell a share to customers before you’ve produced anything to give them. Terranian farm produces mostly produce, along with other products, such as a healing salve. She said selling shares can help forge strong relationships between small farms and consumers.

“Customers want to be loyal to you,” Katz said. “They want to feel like they’re part of your farm.”

Farms vary in how they handle shares. Typically, they accept a lump-sum payment in the winter or early spring, which buys a certain amount of produce or meat throughout the year. For example, at Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, a $300 share buys a customer $330 worth of vegetables, which they can pick up throughout the season.

Many farms give credits to customers who purchase shares, which those customers then use at local farmers markets.

Others, such as Argyle Township’s Abundant Acres, will deliver bags of produce to customers or have them come to the farms to pick out their haul.

Saturday’s event was sponsored by Food AND Medicine and the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association.

For more information on farm share opportunities in your area, visit http://www.mofga.net/ and click “Community Supported Agriculture in Maine” under the “Directories” tab.

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