Lack of local ag lenders challenging urban farmers

One of the biggest challenges for urban producers is not being able to secure financial support like loans from banks.

Tyrean Lewis with Heru Urban Farming in St. Louis tells Brownfield very few urban farms are funded through lenders because local banks do not have ag loan officers.

“For most of the urban farmers I talk to, their funds come from grants, accelerators, or private donors but not particularly from bank lenders.”

Quilen Blackwell with Southside Blooms in Chicago says it comes down to a lack of familiarity.

“They just don’t understand the business model for urban farms. They think of a farm as broad acres in rural Illinois. The other piece is they want to talk about real estate because that is what they do understand, but when they see the address is some empty lot in Englewood, they don’t think they can get money back off of that.”

But they are hopeful for change, Blackwell says, “One day when we have more successful urban farms and the industry is more established then I am hoping the money will begin to flow. But until city bankers understand the nuances of farming and understand it is more than just the evaluation of land, it is going to be hard for us to access that capital.”

Lewis and Blackwell were happy to see some ag lenders at the recent Illinois Specialty Crop Conference who seemed interested in helping fill this gap.

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