Two organizations in Santa Barbara County have teamed up to connect local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food artisans with equitable loans to promote the resilience of food businesses and fill gaps in the system.
The Food System Resilience Loan Program was launched in early November by the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network and the Economic Development Collaborative, and has since helped set up about six different food system projects, according to SBCFAN spokesperson Katie Hershfelt.
The loan program was created as an alternative to traditional financing options for food businesses, which often include significant hurdles and do not cover the unique needs of homeowners, according to Hershfelt. Funding is more accessible to local businesses and can be adjusted to meet their working capital, inventory, personnel or equipment needs.
By responding to the needs of local food industry players, the idea is that the region as a whole will also benefit from increased access to sustainable food, according to SBCFAN Executive Director Shakira Miracle.
“When food businesses – especially farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food artisans – have equitable access to capital, they can grow to meet the demands of our region, continue to provide us with healthy, local foods to eat and maintain a successful business, ”Miracle said.
The program offers loans between $ 10,000 and $ 25,000 for up to five years, to Santa Barbara County food-focused businesses that have been in business since January 2020 or earlier, with a lower interest rate. at the average of 5%.
All applicants benefit from a free one-on-one consultation in Spanish and English from the Small Business Development Center of the Economic Development Collaborative, and loan recipients will have access to counseling services on an ongoing basis.
Loan recipient Robin Macomber is using the funds to develop a mobile poultry harvesting unit that will provide processing options to small and medium ranchers in Santa Barbara County.
“In just three meetings with their extremely knowledgeable team, EDC helped me develop an operating plan, cash flow analysis and strategy to overcome potential regulatory hurdles,” said Macomber. “Being connected by SBCFAN to the invaluable resources that EDC provides has given me a positive perspective on how my business ideas can become reality. “
EDC’s director of loans, Marvin Boateng, said the two organizations will continue to engage the community and conduct research while the pilot program launches, with the hope that it can eventually be replicated statewide. and beyond.
“Our goal is to develop new approaches to solve old food business financing problems,” Boateng said.
Applications are open until December 31, with priority given to those submitted before November 30. Those interested in applying can also receive assistance with their application by contacting SBCFAN at [email protected]
Companies applying to the program must provide two years of professional and personal tax returns and a credit score of at least 625. Applicants must also become members of SBCFAN.