Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology and Grain Train Natural Foods Markets Announce Awards for Area Small Farms.
BELLAIRE, MI — Following a successful Micro Loan program in 2016 and 2017, Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology and Grain Train Natural Foods Markets teamed up again to offer loans for farms and food related businesses in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet, and Otsego counties.
Farmers, agribusinesses, and food business entrepreneurs were invited to apply for the Micro Loan program aimed at enhancing the food and farming network in the Northwestern Lower Peninsula. With $10,000 worth of interest-free loans, the organization’s goals are to help local farmers grow their businesses while building an economy based in community. Out of seven finalists, three young growers were awarded with funds from the Micro Loan allowing doors to open into new farm ventures for two awardees and, for an already established farm, expansion into four-season growing.
This year’s first loan recipient is Natalya Aho of Madcrow Market Garden. Madcrow Market Garden is a small-scale, intensive market garden newly located at the Martha Wagbo Farm and Education Center in East Jordan. Natalya, a Providence Farm trained grower, plans to use the funds to invest in a cooler, food scale, and perimeter fencing in order to build the infrastructure necessary to become a dedicated market grower.
The second loan recipient is Rachel Cross of Spirit of Walloon located in Boyne City near Walloon Lake. Five short, intense years ago, the farm began on just ¼ of an acre. Seven greenhouses, 1.3 acres of production in place, and thousands of pounds of produce later, Rachel had the desire to expand the farm further. The Micro Loan funding will help Rachel create a four-season wash-and-pack-station enabling her to increase on-farm efficiency and provide local fresh food every month of the year.
The third recipient is Nicholas Paxton of Joli Cochon Farm. Nicholas of East Jordan (also a Providence Farm trained grower housed at Wagbo) is on a mission to raise happy, healthy animals and the best tasting pork possible. This new business venture requires shelters, freedom feeders and fencing for his hogs which he is financing through the Micro Loan.He is also experimenting with custom milled feed, and so is purchasing a hammer mill and shopping for grain from other local farms.
“The Micro Loan Program is a great example of what true community can accomplish: coming together to strengthen the livelihoods of those who nurture the people around them with healthy food,” says Jen Harris, Program Coordinator for Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology who heads the Micro Loan review process along with members of Grain Train. “Our efforts to support the small farm community culture of Northern Michigan is accomplished by bringing capital to a level that is manageable.”
The next Micro Loan application process will kick off once again in January of 2019. Keep your eyes open and your farm projects brewing.