We exist to build more equitable, regenerative foodsheds. We prioritize borrowers who may have difficulty accessing capital through traditional lenders, particularly low-income, BIPOC, female, immigrant, LGBTQ, or indigenous individuals. We equally prioritize borrowers who use regenerative practices, foster soil health and biodiversity, and produce nutrient-dense, culturally appropriate food for their foodsheds.
Our lending approach centers equity, patience, and flexibility. Specifically, that means we:
Keep the loan application process simple and expedient
Customize loans to meet a borrower's specific needs
Keep interest rates as low as possible, offering 0% when we can
Offer flexible terms, and grace periods when possible
Remove credit scores from our underwriting process
Rarely collateralize loans, except for land and major equipment purchases
Don't rely on personal assets for loan repayment
This model raises some eyebrows in the world of traditional lending, but it works because we view our borrowers as long term partners rather than customers. We maintain open lines of communication and schedule regular check-ins after a loan has closed, and we remain flexible throughout the life of the loan, adjusting terms if borrowers face adversity from weather, pandemics, health problems, or other issues outside their control.
Mission-driven lending works when borrowers have the resources they need to run their businesses well. From the application phase onward, we assist borrowers with business support and guidance to make sure they're prepared to take on a loan and manage repayment as they grow. This looks like:
Physically visiting the operation and discussing the farmer's needs and goals in person
Assisting with cash flow analysis and cleaning up financial statements
Reviewing marketing strategies for current and future products
Connecting borrowers with partner firms who offer business guidance tailored to small farmers
Offering strategic or financial planning support if borrowers are facing repayment challenges
Our business support is not limited to our borrower portfolio. We offer consultation services and support to small- and mid-scale farms throughout the region through group presentations, seminars, and workshops. We also regularly partner with other food system advocates with various forms expertise—farm funding opportunities, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. And since farmers like to learn from other farmers, we strive to find experts who are farmers themselves.
The best part is that we are typically able to offer this support for free or at significantly reduced cost through generous support from our donors, grantors, and programming partners.
Foodshed Capital began in 2018 as a passion project inspired by Slow Money principles—catalyzing the flow of capital to local food systems, connecting investors to the places where they live, and promoting new principles of fiduciary responsibility that “bring money back down to earth.”
And like so many passion projects, it soon took on a life of its own when we realized the extent of the need for affordable capital in the agricultural sector. Originally named "Slow Money Central Virginia," we worked primarily with the farms most local to us near Charlottesville and Richmond, VA. We made our first loan in January 2019 and formed a 501(c)(3) in that spring. As we expanded throughout the state, we transitioned to the name Virginia Foodshed Capital. In 2020, we were certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and later that year, we made our first loan in Pennsylvania, beginning a regional expansion which has continued throughout the Mid-Atlantic in the years since. To reflect our growing footprint, we're now officially just Foodshed Capital.
In 2021, our lending more than tripled and our staff expanded to four people. We made our first loans in North Carolina and Maryland and launched the Black Farmer Equity Fund to increase the impact of our work with farmers of color. Now in 2022, our team has nearly doubled, and we quietly hit a major milestone: over $1 million deployed to underserved borrowers around the mid-Atlantic. It's only been a few short years, but we're enormously proud of the progress we've made. Now a team of eight staff, we are developing new partnerships and funding new loans all the time. Learn more about where we're headed here: