Innovative, integrated financing to support BIPOC land ownership.
Rural Beacon Initiative, Croatan Institute, and Foodshed Capital convene
to celebrate the groundbreaking at Free Union Farm in 2022
Accessing land is the most significant challenge farmers face, and it is consistently more challenging for BIPOC farmers.
For small farmers to succeed, they need infrastructure to operate efficiently. They need autonomy to make strategic business choices. And they need equity so their investments of time and capital won't be lost when a lease is up.
Alongside our work providing operating capital and business support, Foodshed Capital teams up with mission-aligned peers to extend financing that makes land security a reality for BIPOC farmers.
From Fall 2022 through Spring 2023, Foodshed Capital worked with eight regional partner organizations and a team of advisors to develop an initiative rooted in reparative financial solutions to land security for farmers of color.
To pilot the initiative, we worked extensively with Liberation Farm, a Black-owned, New York-based veggie farm and community organization creating opportunities for Black descendants to reunite with the land, while increasing access to nutrient-dense, organically grown vegetables in the region.
Our team worked directly with farm owners Omowale Adewale and Nadia Mujeeb-Adewale to build up their financial literacy, strengthen their marketing, and create realistic expansion goals—with the ultimate objective of helping them secure land. Foodshed Capital also covered the cost of a professional bookkeeper who helped clean up their books and develop accurate financial projections. Despite their deep desire to own land of their own, a better understanding of their financial circumstances made it clear that renting was a better option as they build up their business foundation. Equipping farmers with the skills to make their own informed decisions for the future of their business, including whether or not they are prepared to manage the costs of land ownership, is a strong example of the kind of 1:1 business support FoodCap offers.
The partnership culminated in a generous lease agreement with a values-aligned landowner, as well as $30,000 in grant funding from Foodshed Capital (thanks to our philanthropic partners in the region) to support Liberation Farm's start-up costs on the land. Three of our staff spent a total of 250 hours supporting this farm’s specific long-term viability—the most FoodCap has ever committed to an individual farm, and an important exploration of what it takes to help equip early stage farmers for long-term success on the land.
The Southeastern United States, and rural communities in
particular, are too often hotbeds of poverty, environmental disaster, and economic disinvestment.
This project is our attempt to
stand in the gap and help
create a new direction."
- William Barber III
The Free Union Farms project is led by Rural Beacon Initiative (RBI), an organization working to advance community ownership in the new clean energy economy. Founded by environmental/climate justice scholar and advocate William Barber III, RBI believes that bridging climate investment and social equity starts with creating model communities that are replicable, scalable, and address the urgent climate and social issues of our time.
Free Union Farms (formerly Vera Brown Farms) is a 52-acre parcel of land in a historic freedmen's community in an economically distressed region of eastern North Carolina. Under RBI's management, it will become a multi-phase, multi-enterprise sustainability hub that demonstrates renewable energy, regenerative agricultural practices, and increases regional food access.
Foodshed Capital and RBI partnered with Croatan Institute to develop an innovative, integrated financing model that pairs low-cost financing with a loan guarantee and philanthropic support. In March of 2022, the partnership successfully financed the purchase of the land with a 0% interest loan, and in May 2022, Rural Beacon broke ground on the project.
Tyrone Power Cherry III
Foodshed Capital lending and outreach teams and board member Harrison Roday learning about the vision in Petersburg, VA
The Petersburg Oasis CommUNITY Farm is located in a classified food desert in central Virginia, and its name is a reference to the farm's potential to serve as an oasis of hope. Project lead Tryone Cherry III is an educator and food justice advocate who is dedicated to increasing fresh food access for public elementary and middle schools and neighbors nearby. The farm's community garden spaces, educational programming, farmer training programs, and produce stand have already made substantial impacts in the community.
After over six years of working on the same property, Cherry and his team have invested considerable time and resources into building infrastructure and place-based programming, and they have long hoped for a way to have more stability in the property.
The 5-acre farmland where Petersburg Oasis CommUNITY Farm operates recently came up for sale. Through a partnership with Agrarian Trust and the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons, Cherry was presented with an innovative way to secure the land. While the organizations fundraised in support of the property purchase, Foodshed Capital extended a 0% interest bridge loan for Agrarian Trust and the local Central Virginia Agrarian Commons to secure the property. The purchase ensures the property will never be sold again and provides Cherry and his team with the security of a 99-year lease to grow their operation and expand programming.
Butts Bros. Farm