New "Grow a Farmer" loan fund helps small farmers get a leg-up

January 25, Owatonna, MINN. - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), along with its partners through the FEAST Local Foods Network, including Renewing the Countryside and Slow Money Minnesota, are happy to announce the launch of a new loan fund for small-scale, sustainable farmers. The Grow a Farmer Fund is a revolving loan fund managed by SMIF that offers lower-interest loans up to $15,000 to individuals in SMIF's 20-county region for inventory, supplies, working capital or machinery/equipment.

Fundraising for the Grow a Farmer Fund kicked off last May at Slow Money Minnesota's annual gathering and was inspired by the principles of Slow Money, which originated out of the slow food movement. Slow Money's mission is to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems, connect investors to the places where they live and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that "bring money back down to earth."

"In Minnesota, those of us working with farmers have seen the challenges and risks faced by those growing fruits and vegetables, raising grass-fed livestock, and producing honey, maple syrup, and other 'specialty crops," said Jan Joannides, Executive Director of Renewing the Countryside. "These farmers often have difficulty accessing traditional sources of capital, which is why the Grow a Farmer Fund is a critical resource."

Since May, the fund has grown to nearly $100,000. Those interested in supporting the Grow a Farmer Fund can still donate online. SMIF contributed $25,000.

"One of the most encouraging things about the Grow a Farmer Fund is all the collaboration that went in to making it happen," said SMIF President and CEO Tim Penny. "Over 250 people and organizations donated to this fund, so clearly people are interested in seeing more local food options."

The Grow a Farmer Fund is yet another outcome of the FEAST Local Foods Network, a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates. The FEAST Network organizes the annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, held annually in Rochester.

For more information about Grow a Farmer Fund, visit Applications for Grow a Farmer Fund can also be found at


About FEAST Local Foods Network

The FEAST Local Foods Network is a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates. The FEAST Network organizes the annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace. Partners include Renewing the Countryside, Region Nine Development Commission, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mayo Clinic and People's Food Co-op. The network was created to support local food producers and foodmakers by boosting access to financing, resources, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Visit

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $100 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 30 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit

About Renewing the Countryside

Renewing the Countryside works to bring inspiration, ideas, resources and assistance to those looking for sustainable ways to strengthen their rural communities. For nearly 15 years, they have done this through public education, economic development initiatives and technical assistance. Their main constituencies are current and aspiring sustainable business owners, farmland owners, and the general public. Visit for more information.

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