News / USA

Internet Fundraising Helps Farmers Flourish

Skipping bank loans, entrepreneurs turn to crowd-sourcing websites

Vermont farmer Josh Brill raised more than $6,000 online to expand his rice-growing business. (Courtesy Josh Brill/Meadow Squire)Vermont farmer Josh Brill raised more than $6,000 online to expand his rice-growing business. (Courtesy Josh Brill/Meadow Squire)
x
Vermont farmer Josh Brill raised more than $6,000 online to expand his rice-growing business. (Courtesy Josh Brill/Meadow Squire)
Vermont farmer Josh Brill raised more than $6,000 online to expand his rice-growing business. (Courtesy Josh Brill/Meadow Squire)
Nina Keck
Josh Brill and Meadow Squire grow vegetables and rice in Tinmouth, Vermont. 

They wanted to expand their rice production last fall, but lacked the needed funds to do it. So they posted a six-minute video on Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced funding website. Seventy-six people thought enough of the couple’s dream to send them money. Brill and Squire raised over $6,000.

Thousands of Americans use Kickstarter to raise money for specific projects. The site launched in 2009 primarily to help artists and musicians but today, inventors, entrepreneurs and a growing number of farmers are also using the site.

Scott Nelson of Friendly Folk Farm in Brookfield, Vermont, is one of them. He wanted to document the growth and development of his farm - to create a kind of how-to video for others interested in organic farming. He raised nearly $9,000 on Kickstarter.

To raise money on Kickstarter, you have to have a specific, creative project in mind - one approved by the website.  Many entrepreneurs, like Brill and Squire, include a video to explain what their project is and why people should support it.  There’s also a deadline for raising the cash - typically about 30 days.  
 
To entice people to pledge, projects also include a list of thank you gifts for various levels of support. Brill and Squire gave supporters packs of seeds, rice they’d harvested, and good karma points.  

“Yeah," Squire says with a laugh. "Everyone needs more Karma, I think.”

If a project meets its funding goal in time, Kickstarter takes five percent of the proceeds while Amazon takes another three-to-five percent for credit card processing fees.

Forty-five hundred creative projects are currently seeking money on Kickstarter. Officials at the site say they don’t track farm-related projects, but with $3 million being pledged each week, it’s not surprising that farmers want in.   

Walter and Holly Jeffries own Sugar Mountain Farm - a 28 hectare spread in West Topsham, Vermont, where they're raising 300 pigs. They’ve been in business since 2003 and have a loyal clientele for their pork. Because commercial slaughtering and butchering facilities are in short supply in Vermont, Holly has to drive to a meat processor 240 kilometers away. 
Walter and Holly Jeffries with some of the 300 pigs they're raising in West Topsham, Vermont. (N. Keck/VOA)Walter and Holly Jeffries with some of the 300 pigs they're raising in West Topsham, Vermont. (N. Keck/VOA)
x
Walter and Holly Jeffries with some of the 300 pigs they're raising in West Topsham, Vermont. (N. Keck/VOA)
Walter and Holly Jeffries with some of the 300 pigs they're raising in West Topsham, Vermont. (N. Keck/VOA)

“My wife drives down to Massachusetts and it’s a seven-hour trip every week," Walter says. “It’s a long drive, it’s a lot of gasoline and it’s a lot of time.”  
     
And because the van can only carry six pigs per trip, it limits the amount of pork the couple can sell.

“We actually calculated that between the time of loading the pigs and driving down and spending the time sorting our orders that the butcher has done for us and beginning deliveries," Holly says. "In that same amount of time, we could slaughter and cut the pigs ourselves.”

So, they thought, why not build their own government inspected butcher shop right on their farm?  
 
Financing from banks was hard to get in 2008, however, as the recession was just beginning. But with loans from friends and family and their own savings,  the Jeffries managed to get quite a bit of their butcher shop built - but not all of it.

“In the spring some customer suggested why don’t you try Kickstarter?" Walter says. "This was in 2010.”

But back then, Kickstarter was still primarily geared to artists and musicians and the website turned their butcher shop proposal down.

“This winter another customer said, 'Hey, there’s a project on Kickstarter that’s just like yours.'  In fact, it turned out that the project that was inspired by ours," Walter says. "These were farmers down in Pennsylvania and they had been inspired to farm the way we do by reading my blog for years.”

That was North Mountain Pastures in Pennsylvania, which raised $48,000 this winter to build a small-scale meat curing facility on their farm.  When the Jeffries saw that project on Kickstarter, they approached the website again.

This time, they were approved and raised more than $33,000.

"Kickstarter is a platform," says Holly, "but it’s really a matter of us getting the word out, letting people know it’s there."   

Which may be why more and more farmers are successfully raising money on crowd sourced funding sites like Kickstarter.

That brings us back  to our rice farmers in Tinmouth. While Meadow Squire checks on a pair of baby goats, her partner Josh Brill walks across the mud to point out new rice paddies they put in with funds from Kickstarter.

“One of the key things that Kickstarter allowed us to do was reach out," Brill says, "having the video online and being able to link with Facebook.”

“It really was free advertising for us," Squire adds, "and there’s already so much anticipation about the rice coming that we would not have had if we just had gotten a loan from a bank.”

The couple hopes that buzz will help boost sales this year. And they say the feedback has been really inspiring, especially from other farmers.   

Brill says one pledge came all the way from New Zealand.  “When someone is willing to put up their money for your farm, that means something. It’s like you would feel bad if you couldn’t succeed for them.”

He’s not sure, but Brill doubts he’d feel quite as emotional about a bank loan.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs