Letter from Greenhorn Nic Koontz, Colorado

posted February 20, 2009

farmblackboardAny Greenhorns out there with advice on funding & other financial matters for start-up Greenhorns?

Hello,

My name is Nic Koontz and I am working towards starting a small farm of my own in the northern Colorado front range area, near Ft. Collins. I have been a follower of yours since I heard about your project from a friend whom farms in Georgia (Serenbee Farms). I think what you are doing is great and energizing and i read it whenever I can just to convince myself that I am not the only young person crazy enough to do this.


The reason I am writing is in regards to all the barriers to entry for young people to start farming and what your comment, feelings, words of wisdom are. Those barriers being Land,Water, and Capital. You must have all three in order to make it happen. I have been working towards my own farm on leased land with good water rights since just before the new year. I am encountering a problem that I am sure most young and stratup growers face. The problem seems to happen even if the water and land have been figured out(not that land and water are easy to find) as most folks that are willing and have gained the knowledge by apprenticing on farms for almost no pay, just don’t have the capital to move into even part time growing. As I plan out my materials and equipment budget just for a simple acre market farm it quickly becomes financially overwhelming even with the prospect of USDA backed low interest loans. Overwhelming almost to the point of not moving forward with the farm,as the ability of the farm to service debt is uncertain at most. What have other young folks done to get past that initial outlay, even for simple tools and structures. Especially when your profit(to live on) wont be realized till year two or three if you have your stuff together. Season extension is the name of the game here with our short intense unpredictable shoulder seasons and the possibility of season ending hail any month thus that means serious capital investment in structures. I truly dont know an answer besides big loans.

I know there are grants out there, i guess, but I believe in the value and necessity of a financially viable small farm, serving local needs, or in the attempt of the idea of it. For if it is grant driven, it is in the end actually unsustainable and unrealistic in the larger world.

Why am I writing, just to reach out to the community of young farmers and find out their thoughts and ultimately their actions against the barriers to entry. Namely Capital.

Thanks
Nic Koontz
Native Hill Farm

nicokoontz@gmail.com