Building Equity through Foodshed Capital’s Black Farmer Fund
April 22, 2021
Foodshed Capital, a Richmond, VA-based nonprofit that began as a project of the Slow Money Institute and became a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in 2020, is on a mission to provide financial stewardship to farms and businesses fostering an equitable and regenerative local food economy through patient, flexible, low-cost financing. The ethos of Foodshed Capital is summed up well by this quote from Woody Tach, the founder of Slow Money:
“In the names of nonviolence, community, and health, we need to nurture greater humility and self-restraint. There is no better place to splice nurture into the genes of the economy than local food systems.”
Foodshed Capital, under the leadership of co-founder and Executive Director Michael Reilly, continues to embody that spirit today by addressing the historical inequities in access to capital and other resources.
Small, sustainable food and farming enterprises need capital to sow the seeds of their businesses, but they are not particularly attractive to traditional lenders, since they tend to see lower, slower returns on investment (though they often provide other environmental or community benefits that aren’t measured monetarily). Historically under-resourced communities face additional barriers, like institutionalized inequalities and lack of access to assets to use as collateral. African-American farmers in particular have been systematically exploited and excluded from land ownership and federal agricultural programs in this country for centuries. Today, just 1.6% of farmers are black, while white people own 98% of all farmland (2012-2014 data).
Foodshed Capital helps to remove barriers for entrepreneurs by providing patient, low- to no-interest loans and grants, financial and business consultation, technical assistance, and training to start or grow planet-friendly food businesses, with a focus on serving women, people of color, low-income individuals, and new/beginning farmers. Since their first loan in January 2019, 84% of their loans have gone to farms/businesses owned at least in part by women and people of color.
In 2021, in partnership with Carter Farms and 4P Foods, and with funding from the PATH Foundation, Foodshed Capital started the Black Farmer Equity Fund to deepen their work of creating equity in the food system by making 0% loans and grants to Black farmers. The Black Farmer Fund aims to address centuries of systemic racism by helping Black farmers gain access to the capital needed to start or grow their food businesses. You can help reverse Black Land Loss and centuries of exploitation and inequity in the food system by making a contribution to the Black Farmer Equity Fund. To make a direct donation, visit Foodshed Capital’s donation page and select “Black Farmer Equity Fund” from the provided options after you click “Donate” on the first step of the form.
To learn more, visit foodcap.org, follow @foodshed_capital on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up for Foodshed Capital’s very thoughtful monthly newsletter here. If you’re looking for a primer about the history of inequality in agriculture, start with this AgDaily article about Structural Racism In the Food System. You can also check out this post for a compilation of additional resources and ways to invest in Black-led organizations in the food space. And finally, if you’re in a position to give, please make a direct donation to the Black Farmer Equity Fund today.
Featured photo courtesy of Foodshed Capital.