In the previous post I wrote about the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro last week. What does this have to do with Yankee Farm Credit?
Much of Slow Living is about Slow Food. I have written several posts on this blog about a related concept that I call SLO agriculture - sustainable, local, and/or organic agriculture. Many Yankee members are involved in SLO agriculture.
How many? There is no standard definition for "sustainable" or "local" so it is only possible to discuss these categories qualitatively, not quantitatively. I would guess, however, that nearly 100% of our members consider themselves both sustainable and involved in local food markets. Others may have a different view, but even under the most stringent definitions a significant number of Yankee members are involved in sustainable and/or local agriculture.
There is a standard definition for "organic" - a farm is either certified organic under USDA's National Organic Program or it is not. Nationally 0.7% of farms are organic. (Source: 14,450 organic farms from the 2008 Organic Survey divided by 2.2 million total farms from the 2007 Census of Agriculture.) In Yankee's loan portfolio 6% of customers and 5% of loan volume are certified organic. This is small but growing, and much more significant in Yankee's territory than in many other areas of the country.
Another aspect of Slow Living is Slow Money, which relates to the business of investing and lending money, especially involving food systems. Congress created the Farm Credit System specifically to provide debt capital to the production end of the nation's food systems. The Farm Credit System is nearly 100 years old and is a huge success. In Yankee's territory we provide $400 million of financing to 1,300 customers. Our territory includes all of Vermont and six neighboring counties in New Hampshire and New York. In Vermont alone we provide $250 million of financing to 1,000 customers. We are by far the largest provider of credit to agriculture in our territory. The next two largest providers, and valued partners with Yankee, are the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation and USDA's Farm Service Agency. Together they provide about half of the financing that Yankee Farm Credit provides in Vermont.
In addition to all of the above, Vermont seems to be a focal point for much of the activity around the emerging philosophy of Slow. Since 2010 Vermont has been host to two Slow Living Summits and a Slow Money National Gathering. The University of Vermont has adopted food systems as one of its three Spires of Excellence. And there has been a great deal of entrepreneurial activity in Vermont around this movement (example).
Taking all of these things together, I cannot think of many issues that are more directly related to the mission of Yankee Farm Credit.
Where does mainstream agriculture fit into this discussion? After all, mainstream agriculture is our core business. How do we balance mainstream agriculture and SLO agriculture? Some thoughts on that in the next post.