Taking on Debt to Finance a Dream

Read the story of a farmer who chose to not let fear of debt and failure stop her from starting a farm.

  • Greenhorns
    "I had to remind myself that whether or not we take on this debt, we’re putting everything on the line ."
    Photo by iStock/Getty Images Plus/Nomadsoul1
  • Greenhorns
    "Greenhorns" edited by Zoë Ida Bradbury, Severline von Tscharner Fleming, and Paula Manalo is a must-read for new farmers, self-reliance enthusiasts, and anyone interested in organic food.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Greenhorns
  • Greenhorns

Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers' Movement (Storey Publishing, 2012), by Zoë Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, and Paula Manalo is a collection of inspirational essays written by members of the Greenhorns — a non-profit organization that recruits and supports a new generation of young farmers across urban, rural and suburban areas. Topics in the book include financing, family logistics, machinery, community building, and social change. The following excerpt is from Chapter 2, “Money.”

As a farmer, most of my days are filled with the tangible: the green shoots of seedlings, the softness of a tomato ready to be harvested, the cackle of a flock of turkeys roosting where they shouldn’t.

But farming is as much about the intangible — things like cash flow and balance sheets. It’s about your dreams, and when to take on debt to finance them. So, when my husband and I were first planning our farm, we were sure to make the cash flow just as much a priority as the crop rotation.

We were watching the local-food movement sweep across the country, and we were inspired. We thought such an idea could work at home, too. So, two years ago, we packed up our life in Missoula, I quit my job as the editor of the online magazine New West, and we moved back home to rural Montana to farm.

We had no money and no assets to leverage. What we did have was a whole lot of people pulling for us. We asked a handful of friends and family for a loan. We said we would pay them back in three years with 3 percent interest. It was more than they could earn in, say, a CD, and we would be paying less for the loan than we would if we’d gone to a bank. Plus, we would have a group of investors to advise us, support us, and cheer us on.

We started with a community-supported agriculture model, which means we have sixty people “subscribe” to our harvest: They pay us in the spring for a weekly share of the bounty. That works well, because it gives us start-up capital each spring for seed, poults, irrigation equipment, and the like.



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