Monday, August 12, 2013

Special Update from John Krueger -- Status of the Farm

Hello Everyone, 
This is a special update that I am writing to apprise you of my situation regarding the future of my farming operation. I currently rent 40 acres from Good Hand Farm in Andover. This is where most of the produce is grown. I have a good relationship with the owner and he has offered to give me a long term lease. 
Since 2008 I have been renting a house, barn and 15 acres of land from the adjacent Circle Brook Farm. This property has become the center of our operations. We have built 2 walk-in coolers in the barn, which serves as packing house, storage facility, lunch room for the workers as well as mechanic shop for repairing tractors, vehicles and other equipment. The owner of Circle Brook farm would like to sell the property and it has been my hope and dream to buy it. 
To this end, over the past 2 years I have been saving money and speaking with banks about financing. The best mortgage I have been able to find would require 25% down and another $20,000 for an appraisal and other closing costs. I have not yet been able to amass this amount. The owner has become impatient with waiting for me to make the purchase and last month listed the property with a realtor. 
Firstly I want to assure everyone that the sale of the property will not affect my ability to finish out the season and complete the commitment that I have made to the members. However without the use of the property it is difficult to see how I would be able to continue farming. I asked the owner to list me as an exception in his contract with the realtor, and if we are able to sign a contract by the end of August he will not have to pay the commission. I have made him an offer, which he is considering and I believe he will accept and I am renewing my discussions with potential lenders. I am very close to having the funds that I need, but farming is an uncertain business and I cannot be positive that I will have enough by November when I would need to close on the sale. 
During the past weeks I have been having discussions with my market customers and some of the CSA core group members. I have been amazed and gratified by the support I have received. I have received offers totaling $40,000 for loans, but the problem is that borrowing for the down payment increases my debt and impacts the willingness of the banks to make the loan. There have been many suggestions for fundraising, from a farm to table benefit dinner and  t-shirt sakes to a Kickstarter campaign. The issue is that I need to stay focused on the farming and don’t have the time needed to plan these activities, nor can I be certain how much can be raised. 
As we move into the fall I will have more time and we will begin fundraising. At present I have a very simple proposal that I believe could work and guarantee that I will have the money I need. I am asking for a small group of members to pledge to prepay for the 2014 season by November 1. I would only need about 15% of the total membership to achieve my goal. Members who prepay would pay at the 2013 price and hence save on any price increase for the next season. 
At this time I am only asking for a pledge, a show of hands as it were. I will not take any money until the bank financing is secured, a closing date set for the sale and it is certain that there will be a 2014 season. For those who are in a position to make this investment I will be extremely grateful for your support. 
Please let your core group leaders know as soon as possible as I will need to sign a contract within the next 3 weeks. For others who cannot participate in this manner there will be other ways to show your support in the near future.  If I am successful at purchasing the farm I will want to change the name of my business to Circle Brook Farm. I have reserved the domain name, and I need to begin website construction. It will be necessary to design a logo for printing on bags and t-shirts. If there are members willing to help with either of these endeavors please be in touch.  I will keep all of you informed of the progress and status of this process and of upcoming fundraising events or opportunities to contribute. 
Thank you as always for your support.   
Farmer John

NOTE FROM MELISSA:  I am hesitant to send this because I am not sure I want to move ahead with 2014 yet.  Year after year it has become increasingly difficult for me to get volunteers and control issues that occur week to week.  If someone is willing to partner with me and take on some of the responsibility, I would be more willing to commit to the 2014 season.