FarmLink helps people of color become successful farmers – TPG, Inc.
In the past seven years, former farm worker Aldo Gonzalez has expanded his farming business from five to 44 acres, thanks to annual operating loans from California FarmLink, an Aptos-based nonprofit that, since 2013, also operates as a community development financial institution.
Gonzales grew up on a family farm growing vegetables in Oaxaca, Mexico, and as a farm worker in the United States he was determined to have his own business. Today, Gonzalez Organic Farms in Monterey County specializes in growing strawberries, which it sells in farmers’ markets in Cupertino, San Juan Bautista, Oakland and Sunnyvale, and is a popular producer among major strawberry shippers.
Gonzalez is just one of many Latino farm workers who have grown into successful farmers in the United States, said Reggie Knox, executive director of FarmLink.
“The total number of farms is decreasing, while the proportion of Latino farmers is increasing,” Knox said. “We want to serve this community and see it as important to the future of agriculture in California.”
In fact, the USDA Agricultural Census found over 14,000 registered Latino farmers and ranchers in California.
And Latino farmers are growing twice as fast as traditional farmers.
As part of its commitment to fostering diversity in agriculture, Farm Credit sponsored FarmLink and its annual Farm Finance Exhibition, held virtually in late 2020. Supporting Farm Credit Institutions American Ag Credit, CoBank, Farm Credit West and Fresno Madera Farm Credit are part of the National Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.
Knox said the support of Farm Credit and other sponsors is critical to FarmLink’s success.
“The income we get from the loans is not enough to support the operations, so we supplement it with grants and sponsorships,” he said. “We appreciate the support from Crédit Agricole. “
Keith Hesterberg, president and CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, noted that FarmLink has expanded its efforts in the Fresno area.
“FarmLink is now working with a number of small Hmong farmers in the Fresno area, and as part of Farm Credit’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we applaud the efforts of FarmLink and look forward to working with these newbie farmers in the future, ”he said.
Mark Littlefield, President and CEO of Farm Credit West, said supporting FarmLink is just one way Farm Credit supports diversity in agriculture.
“For the past six years, Farm Credit has also been a proud sponsor of the Latino Farmer Conference, which drew some 300 attendees in 2019, before COVID-19, and returned this year with a series of webinars,” said Littlefield. “Encouraging beginning farmers is part of our mission and we are happy to support the work of FarmLink. “
Knox said that since CDFI’s inception, FarmLink has loaned $ 31 million to more than 300 borrowers, 60% of whom are Latino and up to 35% are women.
FarmLink works closely with ALBA – the Association for Agricultural and Land Training – an incubation program in the Salinas Valley that provides land and support to beginning farmers. During the six month course, ALBA provides half an acre of land to learn how to farm. Once the farmer graduates, FarmLink steps in.
“When the newbie Latino farmer leaves the incubator, we can help him with his first lease and provide him with a first operating loan of $ 10,000 to $ 20,000 to get started. The following year, the farmer may need $ 25,000 to $ 50,000 to grow. Where possible, these leases include a first right of refusal for the farmer to purchase the property, as we encourage people to build a path to ownership so that their businesses can generate multigenerational wealth, ”he said. -he declares.
Knox believes farm credit can help farmers achieve this.
“Farm Credit is the largest lender in the country, helping farmers of all sizes. We really appreciate the partnership and look forward to working closely with its associations in the future, to make sure they are there when farmers graduate from our programs and need a bigger loan, ”he said. -he declares.
FarmLink is a Santa Cruz County-based organization that aims to help smallholder farmers and people of color succeed in farming. Farm Finance has supported FarmLink as part of its commitment to diversity in agriculture. To reach California Farm Link, call 831-425-0303. To learn more about Farm Credit Alliance, see www.farmcreditalliance.com/
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