SOAR Farm Loan Program moving small farms into commercial production

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The SOAR Small Production Loan Fund is a partnership between Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC), Grow Appalachia, and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.  The program provides low-interest loans to assist small producers in growing healthy and nutritional foods, so they can move into commercial production.  The goal of the program is to support and educate growers to develop a strong local food system across the SOAR region that will be market-supported and result in a profit for the growers.

KHIC leads the program is a Blueprint Partner of SOAR, and its work aligns with SOAR’s Regional Blueprint goal of creating a local foods movement by connecting local producers to markets for their products both within and outside of the region.

Since 2015, the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund approved 52 loans for a total of $382,392.  The loans covered farmers in 25 counties. The fund offers loans up to $7,500 to eligible farmers with a 1% fixed interest rate over four years.  Twenty-three loans have been approved in 2017 alone.

Some of the highlights of the SOAR Small Loan Production Fund is Greenup County farmer Casey Muncy.  He and his family established Mulberry Family Farming in 2014 to grow nutrition rich, organic produce.  Through a $7,500 loan through the SOAR Small Loan Production Fund, Muncy is expanding his overall operation with additional vegetables, increased mushroom and egg production, and the development of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. 

Griffith Family Farm in Johnson County was the recipient of a $7,500 loan from the SOAR Small Loan Production Fund.  They used the loan to construct a greenhouse and extend utilities to the structure on their 200-acre farm. 

Letcher County farmers Seth and Sheryl Long produce maple syrup on their 50-acre farm.  They currently have 102 taps and plan to expand to 500 taps over the next two years.  They used a $7,500 loan from the SOAR Small Loan Production Fund to purchase an evaporator and other necessary equipment for commercial maple syrup production.

KHIC has awarded more than $300 million in commercial loans, farm loans, and equity investments since its inception in 1968.

The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund is administered through the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and is designed to provide access to funds for a wide variety of agricultural ventures that fall outside established programs.

Grow Appalachia is based at Berea College and focuses on food production in order to introduce as much low-cost, healthy food as possible to the region.

For more information on the SOAR Small Production Loan Fund, contact Michael Hayes at (606) 864-5175 or email mhayes@khic.org.