I met farmers Alex Ekins and Amy Dolomont on a lovely, late summer day at Ace of Spades Farm. Located just a few miles short miles west of Spokane, the 40-acre parcel of land is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Three years ago, following a successful stint founding Scratch & Peck Feeds, Alex decided to return to his roots when the opportunity to take over his great grandfather’s farm presented itself.
Today, he and Amy cultivate just ¼ of an acre completely by hand with no pesticides or harmful chemicals. Despite the relatively small scale of the farm, they grow an impressive amount of crops, including assorted types of greens, beans, carrots, beets, onions, broccoli, squash, garlic, tomatoes, basil, strawberries and more. In addition, they raise pigs and chickens. They sell their produce through a variety of channels: LINC Foods (a farmer/worker owned cooperative); farmers markets; directly to chefs; and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Their goal is to produce the highest quality, nutrient-dense produce possible using sustainable methods.
Late this past winter, Alex realized that he needed to make some upgrades to his farm in order for it to work more efficiently and to enable him to expand his operation. Through his involvement with LINC Foods, he learned about the INWFN’s Local Lending Program (LLP). The LLP connects borrowers to lenders who provide low-interest loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs.
Alex submitted an application to the LLP, and was subsequently introduced to Paulette and Herb Minatre who agreed to lend him the money he needed. The terms of the loan were agreed upon by Alex and the Minatres. With just $15,000, Alex was able to purchase high tunnels, upgrade the irrigation system, build a wash and pack station, a walk-in cooler, as well as invest in some tools! Now, less than a year later, Alex has nearly paid off the loan and his farm is benefiting from the improvements and we all get to enjoy the food he and Amy grow!
For their part, Paulette explained that their decision to provide the loan was based on Alex having presented a solid business plan that demonstrated his capacity to make good on the loan. Both she and Herb place high value on having access to healthy, organic food, and they believe the LLP is one way that they can help to support farmers and to grow our local food system. It is their hope that others will be inspired to step forward and participate in the program and/or come together to explore additional ways of investing in our food system.
Written by Teri McKenzie