The 14,000-member La Montañita Co-op runs the La Montañita (LaM) Fund, a member-funded micro-lending program for food system producers and cooperative businesses in New Mexico. The fund provides affordable one-, three-, and five-year notes for small- and medium-scale projects that increase sustainable production.
Founded in 2010, the LaM Fund grew out of La Montañita’s pre-payment program for local farmers and food producers to expand their production. Under this program, loans were repaid through product deliveries.
The La Montañita Co-op implements the LaM Fund in partnership with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union. Co-op members buy an “interest” in the fund. The money collected from the sale of the interests is then placed in a money market account at the credit union, and used to collateralize loans. The loans themselves are awarded based on the recommendations of the LaM Fund Loan Advisory Committee, which also oversees the terms of loans to ensure that they best meet the needs of farmers.
The loans have been used to install infrastructure—irrigation, hoop houses, high tunnels, and fences—expand herd size, and increase the amount of acreage under production. Loans have also been used to cover the capital costs of conservation initiatives reimbursable through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the USDA.
Loan applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Application requirements are available at the LaM Fund website.