Agrarian Trust

Credit Unions Investing in Maine Farmers

A story, published in the Bangor Daily News looks at how financiers are beginning to focus on small farmers.

From the article by Darren Fishell:

The 100-acre organic farm that Rufus Percy and his wife started working a decade ago is mix of leased land, family land and mortgaged land.

Finding used farm equipment took them as far as Ohio. The barn where they raise about 100 hogs a year was built with the help of a grant from the Farms for Maine’s Future program and a federal grant.

“Most people aren’t that lucky though, as far as getting started,” said Percy, 35.

He’s one of the young farmers leading a resurgence in the industry that aims to re-establish more local food systems in the state, where Maine is leading the way. But before that really takes off, he said, the state needs to put its money where its mouth is. More specifically, more accessible funding needs to be available to the folks who grow food that Mainers put in their mouths.

“If we want to encourage a lot of young people to get into farming — be it small medium or large — we have to figure out how to make it not only attractive but possible,” Percy said. “If only Trustafarians can farm, then we’re all going to go hungry.”

A trustafarian is “a rich young person who adopts a bohemian lifestyle and lives in a nonaffluent area,” according to

Percy’s one of the young farmers Sam May and Scott Budde want to support. The two men are leading an effort to launch the first new credit union in Maine in 25 years, focused on helping small farms acquire land, equipment and lines of credit.

Maine, where young farmers are on the rise and agricultural sales grew by about 24 percent from 2007 to 2012, is the place to give it a go.

“Here’s a sector that’s growing, and in some places very rapidly. Everybody likes it, it’s got broad support and there are financing gaps that people are talking about, so why wouldn’t you have this?” Budde said.

It’s the question that started his research about two years ago into financing that could support New England’s small farms. Last year, that converged with May’s investigation of the same concept in Maine.

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