Kiva.org launched their "Farm & Table" campaign today, with a goal of raising over $1 million to crowdfund loans for 1,000 small farmers and food producers in the U.S. and around the world. Kiva is a nonprofit organization that has crowdfunded more than $880 million in microloans to 2 million entrepreneurs in 86 countries. This week, they’ve teamed up with celebrated chefs across the country, including Mario Batali, Hugh Acheson, Seamus Mullen, Virginia Willis, Aarti Sequeira, Rebecca Lang, and Katie Button to zero in on local farms and independent food producers. Borrowers range from urban farmers and pastured egg producers to small grocery store owners and local market vendors.
Access to capital in the food and agriculture industry is a critical roadblock, as traditional banks are reluctant to offer flexible loans to small business owners. According to Kiva’s research, 78 percent of farmers cite "lack of capital" as their top challenge while 40 percent rank "access to credit" as the biggest barrier. As a result, the number of new small farms in the U.S. has dropped 20 percent in the past five years.
As former or current small business owners themselves, chefs can relate to this struggle and are lending their support. Mullen, chef and owner of New York’s Tertulia and El Colmado, said, "I know firsthand how hard local farmers and small food producers work and how difficult it is for them to raise capital. A loan to Kiva’s "Farm & Table" campaign can help bridge this divide by allowing them to continue the good work they are doing -- providing healthy locally produced food to communities around the globe through access to the capital they need to succeed." The "Farm & Table" campaign starts today and runs through September 19th.