Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are USDA/FHA loans the way to go?

Sure way to fire a farmer up: ask him/her what they think of government direct or guaranteed loans.  Sheesh!  Apparently there is a LOT of skepticism about who these loans help more - the government or the farmer.  "Some guys barely make it out of them with their shorts on."  Guess we better read the fine print of all the documents before even applying.  Maybe it's something to do with the managing skills of the people I've asked...no way to know!
When I talked to the Farm Service Agency's Loan Advisor today, he actually told me to find a property first.  As in before we develop a business plan, like thats secondary to getting funding. Excuse me?  I'm pretty foggy on investing, but personally, if someone came to me and said "Hey, I need some money for this land - we're gonna farm and stuff."  You can bet I wouldn't be very eager to hand you a check for up to $300,000 (their loan limit).  I was under the impression that you should have an idea about what you'd be able to repay...just a thought.  Maybe I'm just a bumpkin, but this non-chalant (?) stuff worries me a little.
We're still exploring the options, maybe the local food movement has links to funding or grants for start-up!  All of my contacts for local food/organic/sustainable farming have messages on their voice mails, but all of their voice mails said that they were out of town for days or weeks alternately.  Bummer.  Waiting is not my favorite thing when it comes to business/money.

In the midst of all this we're trying to figure out how we can pasture poultry behind pigs in a rotation system.  Shelters are an issue to consider, as is cover for the chickens so the hawks/eagles/carnivores don't get them.  These shelters have to travel with them around the pasture.  LOTS of thinking/design ideas floating around.  Also have to have permanent (and warmer) buildings for them off the pasture to winter and sleep in, as well as a large greenhouse for the produce side of the farm.  Minimal footprint is the goal so we're thinking of using a couple of plastic-covered, Kwansit-style buildings with rotational pens within.  I think Mother Earth News had an article on a system like this a while back.  Pretty sure they turned the soil within the structure in the spring and then planted in all the lovely soil the animals had made.  Better look for the article.

Any ideas/experiences/input would be lovely!