For Kip Kelly, a water reel sprinkler means less time spent irrigating, more efficient water usage and heartier root vegetables. It also means $3,000 in upfront costs that he doesn’t have on hand.
Kip lives with his wife and son at Full Cellar Farm, located on 175 acres of beautiful, fertile land in Jefferson, Maryland. Kip cultivates vegetables for markets and raises chickens, turkeys and pigs on pasture and grain, much of which he grows himself. A new father, Kip has his hands full with little Otto Walter Kelley, his first-born son. He’d spend all the time he could with his wife and son but farming is more than a full-time job. Like most small farmers, Kip knows a thousand ways he could improve his farm, if only he had a little extra time or money. With a little help from FRESHFARM Markets, Kiva Zip gave him both.
Kiva Zip is a program of Kiva.org that provides zero interest loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs through its one million members who provide loan funds starting at $5. Kiva Zip, unlike most traditional lending models, focuses on the character of a lender as opposed to her/his credit score and relies on the relationships that we as trustees have built with responsible and innovative borrowers. The best part is that Kip doesn’t have to pay a single penny in interest. This works in part because Kip can receive the loan entirely electronically and in part because FRESHFARM Markets has endorsed him as a responsible borrower. For those that can’t borrow from a family or bank, like Kip, this type of community support is crucial. “Customers, who were also lenders, came by to check in with me which was meaningful both monetarily and emotionally” says Kip Kelly.
It only took two weeks and 35 lenders to raise the $3,000 Kip needed for the water reel sprinkler. Kip’s previous method of irrigation was drip tape – long, cheap plastic hosing with evenly spaced holes that drips water slowly into the soil. He spent countless hours pulling out the non-reusable tape from last year’s rows and throwing out heaps of black plastic garbage. Kip’s new water reel irrigator will help him bring more produce to market, increasing revenue and saving him time. When Kip repays the loan, every one of the 35 lenders is paid back in full.
FRESHFARM Markets, as a trustee of Kiva Zip, has now endorsed five of our farmers and producers for over $23,000 in zero interest loans. But we knew this was a golden opportunity to do even more for our community; to truly uphold our mission to provide economic opportunities for local farmers and artisanal producers. The Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund, a fund created by FRESHFARM Markets, was set up to support new and innovative farmers on the frontline of alternative agriculture with important training and access to the tools they need to grow their farming operations.
Historically, the fund has been used for scholarships that send our farmers to regional sustainable agriculture conferences or to courses in farm management or new techniques. We saw that with Kiva Zip, the fund could do much more – directly provide the capital needed for our farmers and producers to take their farm or business to the next level.
Now, with the support of the Jean Wallace Douglas family, FRESHFARM Markets is a Kiva Zip Super Lender, committed to lend $1,000 to each of the next ten farmers or producers we, as a trustee endorse.
Jurgen Schelzig and Penny Sagawa, the cheese producers behind Spring Gap Mountain Creamery, were the first borrowers we endorsed to also receive $1,000 of support from the Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund. This show of monetary support will help jumpstart the fundraising efforts for their cream separator and butter churn.
Through Kiva Zip, we are more effectively carrying out our mission of providing vital economic opportunities for our network of farmers and producers. The beauty of Kiva Zip is that it provides an opportunity for supporters like to you directly invest in the local farmers you care about and absorb some of the risk that innovative ideas naturally come with. The Jean Wallace Douglas Fund has committed $10,000 to build fundraising momentum for our next ten loans – but we need your help. Jurgen and Penny have 75 lenders from around the world, but their loan is still fundraising. To help them bring delicious local butter to market and support sustainable agriculture in our region, lend here. To stay updated on our Kiva Zip loans, read our weekly e-newsletter or inquire at a FRESHFARM market information booth near you.
Written by FRESHFARM staffers Genna Lipari & Sam Giffin.