As some of our friends and CSA members already know, we’re trying to buy the farm- literally. For the last year, we’ve been searching far and wide for a piece of ground of our very own on which to make the many long-term investments that farming requires. The key to this, as we see it, is to find the right piece of ground, one well-suited to the type of farming we’re envisioning. We want to build a well-designed, integrated, diversified farm that serves the local community by providing fresh, healthy, and ecologically responsible food. As Audra’s dad puts it, we want an “Old MacDonald farm”.
So after visiting many farms and experiencing the anxiety and disappointment of the searching, we found it. It is a lovely little 40 acre farm that, as fate would have it, we visited a couple years ago, inquiring about the possibility of a contract-for-deed agreement. (We’ll come back to the financing debacle.) Being in Fort Shaw, it is still a reasonable distance from Great Falls for the CSA, but is also equipped with infrastructure-including a spacious home- that would enable us to start out focused on the farming rather than building projects. Hurray, right?! Now the work begins.
As many a beginning farmer will share, financing is a major hurdle for starting out. We were lucky enough to have a great lease for the first few years, giving us enough time to qualify for the Farm Service Agency’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher loan programs. After coming to an agreement with the gracious seller and qualifying for the Direct Loan program, we were (hurray again!) approved for the financing. Like our CSA members, the FSA is willing to take a chance on us and our vision. So, piece of cake right? Well, that was in March.
As we soon learned, approval for funding only gets someone on the list of approval, and the agency doesn’t necessarily have the money. So, we waited… and waited. And the seller waited and was gracious enough to extend our contract to accommodate this lengthy process- twice. So now, as we reach the beginning of a new fiscal year for the government in October, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that we will not be funded for the 2012 fiscal year and must (hopefully) obtain yet another extension. The good news is that (hurray!) we’re number two on the list to get funded and even though Congress has NOT passed a new Farm Bill, funding for our program is likely to be continued.
Though we still don’t have any definite news for our CSA members, we thought it was high-time to get you all in the loop. We remain, as ever, optimistic about this process and are confident that this coming spring, we be hosting a proper shin-dig/hog roast at our new-to-us little farm. We’ll keep you posted on any major developments, but feel free to pump us for details as well. See you at the farm stand soon- which will be at Gibson Park starting next Saturday from 9-11 am. Thanks for the support everyone!
Audra & Eric