Pioneering an Innovative Equity Fund for Farmers

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Historically, many farmers at the end of their careers were left with no alternative but the sale of their farmland to developers in order to provide for themselves and their families. If farmers did not own the land they farmed but instead were leasing it, they were frequently left in the unfortunate position of facing their latter years with meager resources. In either case, development on the lands or a scrape-by existence, the situation was not an attractive one.

For years, Smokey House Center has leased its farms to different farmers. Now, with the benefit of a grant from the Castanea Foundation, SHC has created an equity fund and from it developed the concept of an equity agreement for one of its farms. This agreement provides that annually over the course of the lease, a sum (the amount depending on the investment performance of the equity fund) is earmarked for payment to the farmer at the end of the lease term. Hence the idea is to create a retirement-like fund, not unlike the concept behind a 401(k), for the farmers so that at the end of their farming career, they will have accumulated some equity on which to fall back.

It is an expectation of SHC that the conservation of the Lewis Farm will bring additional financial support so that the equity funds and agreements can be established for the other two farms at SHC.