RURAL BEACON INITIATIVE
AN INTEGRATED LENDING MODEL TO SUPPORT BLACK LAND OWNERSHIP
THE BACK STORY
Rural Beacon Initiative was founded by William Barber III, an environmental / climate justice scholar and advocate with nearly a decade of social justice organizing experience and academic training in both science and law. As the son of pastor William Barber II, his work is deeply rooted in faith, a devotion to building "beloved community," and a mission to alleviate chronic poverty.
Rural Beacon was created to advance community ownership in the new clean energy economy through strategic leveraging of relationship expertise and innovative technology. They have now spent the better part of a decade cultivating community relationships through grassroots organizing—from frontline communities to top green energy finance leaders.
THE VERA BROWN FARM PROJECT
Rural Beacon 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. They'll kickstart this work at Vera Brown Farm (renamed Free Union Farms), a 52-acre parcel of land in a historic freedmen's community in an economically distressed region of eastern North Carolina. The land is currently a blank slate, but under Rural Beacon's management, it will become a multi-phase, multi-enterprise sustainability hub that demonstrates renewable energy, regenerative agricultural practices, and increases regional food access.
In William Barber's words, "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."
THE FINANCING MODEL
With a clear roadmap for the property, Rural Beacon still needed a way to finance the purchase of the land. To make it possible, Foodshed Capital partnered with Croatan Institute and Slow Money NC 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 $125,000 purchase of the land with a 0% interest loan, and in May 2022, Rural Beacon broke ground on the project.
Although this loan represents Foodshed Capital's first formal foray into land acquisition, it will certainly not be the last. Philanthropy is absolutely critical to expanding our lending capacity for these types of projects, and critically, keeping interest rates at 0% for Black farmers.
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