From incubators to independence: Providing training and technical assistance to refugee farmers in New Hampshire
The problem ORIS sought to address through this project was that despite the success of refugee farm businesses through ORIS’s incubator farm, these farmers needed additional supports to plan for transitioning their businesses to operate independently. The primary stakeholders are Somali Bantu, Congolese, Bhutanese and other new American farmers living in Manhcester, NH.
Thirteen new American farmers have received transitioning farmer support services through this project. These support services included strategically planning how to successfully and sustainably ensure long-term land access, access to capital, and business planning for the new American farmers’ business operations.
ORIS delivered advanced workshops on cooperative development, including developing systems of how to strategically and successfully transition support and services previously delivered by ORIS staff over to the newly formed cooperative’s member farmers.
ORIS supported farmers’ needs of access to credit by offering technical assistance to 13 refugee farmers throughout the Community Loan Fund’s Individual Development Account’s (IDA) application process. Seven farmers got approved, deposited their initial $500, and now have a matched savings account of $4,500. ORIS has met as a group and one-on-one with these farmers to discuss potential purchases to invest in their businesses and best meet their farm business goals, individually and as a cooperative.
Using the results of farmer interviews regarding their long-term land access priorities, ORIS has continued conversations with the landowners of 5 Story Hill Rd. in Dunbarton, NH, foundations, and trusts to discuss and explore long-term land tenure options, including various options to purchase the land.
Staff provided technical assistance to 9 farmers to complete their farm business annual profit and loss assessments for 2015. These will be utilized in helping farmers to create annual cash flow projections for 2016.
Staff assisted the farmers who developed the cooperative to create a holistic cooperative business plan, farm operational guide, and cooperative annual budget, which will be used to transition responsibilities of their businesses away from ORIS and to independence.
Objective 1: 9 Farmers continued to participate in advanced trainings and meetings related to cooperative development, access to credit and access to farmland.
Objective 2: 13 Farmers received technical assistance with finding and accessing farmland.
Active management of the Dunbarton site is being transitioned over to the 9-member land-based farmer cooperative (New American Farmers Cooperative) and 4 other long-term farmers. ORIS continues to seek land elsewhere for its incubator site, including potential opportunities in Concord, Chichester, and other towns in a 20 mile radius of farmers’ residences. ORIS has continued to connect and meet with the Russel Foundation, a non-profit committed to conserving and supporting the viability of active sustainable farm and forest land in NH. The Russel Foundation provides customized assistance to accelerate the pace of important farm and forest land conservation and to secure access for farmers. The landowners of the Dunbarton site have expressed a strong interest and commitment to putting their land up for sale and having its end use continue to be for refugee farmers’ businesses. ORIS has met with Russel Foundation to discuss land easements, collaborative fundraising, and purchase options by ORIS or another entity with ORIS as the long-term lessee/user within the next two years.
Objective 3: 9 Farmers developed holistic farm business transition plans.
ORIS conducted multilingual outreach to farmers participating in business planning about transition planning support. ORIS has met with the 9 cooperative member farmers and the 4 other long-term Dunbarton land users to discuss how the role of ORIS will be changing, identify their existing needs to transition land management responsibilities successfully, and strategically planning how to address those needs. The expressed needs included linking farmers to the retailers where essential farm inputs are purchased (plastic, seedlings, fertilizer, etc.), creating payment collection systems for costs that are shared cooperatively (gas for generator, etc.), and land/plot allocation between farmers. ORIS staff made an operational guide, which included retailers’ information and timelines for purchasing, and will be sharing and discussing this guide with farmes in winter and spring of 2016. ORIS will continue to meet with farmers to create a system of equitiably purchasing and collecting payments of shared costs that can be harmoniously implemented by the farmers. ORIS will offer the cooperative development workshops on communication, governance and conflict resolution in winter and spring of 2016 to address identified challenges such as allocating land/farm plots.
Objective 4: Nine farmers developed finanical plans, including cash flow and access to capital/credit.
ORIS staff coordinated, conducted outreach, and facilated one-on-one business planning meetings with the nine coooperative member farmers. These meetings included profits and losses of the 2015 growing season, short-term and long-term business goal setting, and were used as benchmarks for cash flow projections in the upcoming 2016 year.
One farmer expressed an interest in pursuing Farm Service Agency loans. Seven other farmers who received IDA matched savings discussed how their IDA purchases would fit into their business plans. Potential purchases included a rotatiller and/or land purchase costs of the existing Dunbarton site.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Refugee farmers participating in ORIS’s New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, and in particular the nine producers who have founded and developed the New American Farmers Cooperative, have made significant strides towards achieving long-term land access and business sustainability. Drawing upon the farmers’ self-expressed needs and goals, ORIS has engaged with the landowners of Dunbarton, a Foundation, and land trusts to determine the best, mutually-beneficial opportunity to ensure long-term land use by refugee farmers on the site. The landowners determined their asking price, and ORIS will collaborate with the Foundation to fundraise over the next two years to either purchase the land or be a long-term user/lessee from another entity. ORIS also continues to pursue future incubator farm sites for beginner farmers, including potential sites in Concord and Chister, NH.
ORIS has leveraged its partnership with the Community Loan Fund to connect farmers to small business IDAs. Seven farmers have successfully completed the application process and been approved, receiving an 8:1 match of $500 each for a $4,000 in matched savings to be used towards eligible purchases for their farm businesses. This additional capital is critical to making the investments necessary for long-term enterprise sustainability and achieving their small farm business goals. ORIS staff is continuing to work closely with refugee farmers and organizational partners to determine best purchases and offer TA with submitting the needed documentation to CLF to approve and make these purchases.
ORIS has offered cooperative development workshops and met with cooperative member farmers to take the next steps towards self-sufficiency. ORIS has met individually and as a group with cooperative member farmers to make individual profit/loss statements for 2015, project expenses and income for 2016, set both short- and long-term farm business goals, and create action plans to achieve those goals.
31 George St.
Portland , ME 04103
Office Phone: 2079393854
Fresh Start Farms-NH
434 Lake Ave.
Manchester, NH 03103
Office Phone: 6032960443