LONDON, Ky. - Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Grow Appalachia announced the creation of a low-interest loan fund for small farmers in the 54-county SOAR region of eastern and southern Kentucky. The fund was established with support from a $200,000 grant through the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.
The SOAR Small Production Loan Fund will help small producers grow healthy, nutritional foods so that they can move into commercial production.
“We are pleased to partner with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, Grow Appalachia and growers on this SOAR region project,” said Roger Thomas, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. “The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund investments continue to have a positive impact on diversification efforts throughout Kentucky.”
The loan fund, which is supported by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, will not only provide favorable loan terms for growers but also use the repayment of the initial loans to sustain the program for other growers.
“This fund will support and educate growers to develop a strong local food system in eastern and southern Kentucky that will result in profits for the growers and nutritional food for families in the region,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of KHIC.
The grant will use $175,000 for the revolving loan fund and $25,000 for technical assistance to the farmers through Grow Appalachia, which will help participants with their specific goals and needs as gardeners and food producers.
Grow Appalachia works through non-profit organizations in each county; offers classes at partner sites on topics such as garden planning, planting and maintenance, heart-healthy cooking and up-to-date food processing and preservation techniques; and helps growers market their products.
“This loan fund represents a real opportunity for small growers who want to make strategic investments in expanding their operations,” said David Cooke, director of Grow Appalachia. “KHIC is making the whole process very straightforward for folks who want to expand their production and marketing in very targeted ways.”
Here’s how the loan fund will work:
- Almost all food-related producers, such as fruit and vegetable growers, beekeepers and gardeners of herbs, are eligible to participate in the program.
- The maximum loan amount is $7,500 with a fixed interest rate of 1 percent and no closing fees. Typically, the terms of the loan will be four years.
- KHIC will provide the financing and Grow Appalachia will provide the installation and technical support for each family.
- For growers moving into commercial production, Grow Appalachia has developed a Small Production Package, which can include a high-tunnel greenhouse, woven ground cover that is reusable, T-posts, a drip irrigation system, a walk-behind tractor, hand tools, wheel hose and a hydro-cool station for cold storage, as needed.
- Business training also will be available through a free, five-session business training course on starting and running your own business.
In addition, many growers in the region haven’t had access to affordable banking services or have had difficult credit issues, so the fund also has formed a partnership with Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union to provide financial literacy training and credit repair counseling.
Growers who are interested in learning more can visit the website at www.soarfarmloans.org or contact David Cooke at Grow Appalachia, (859) 985-3941, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Michael Hayes at KHIC, (606) 864-5175, email@example.com.