Beginning farmers overcome barriers with web, crowd funding

Young and beginning farmers with plans of establishing a new farm are using Internet tools to clear the obstacles that would otherwise make the lifelong career unattainable.

A 2011 study by the National Young Farmer's Coalition found that access to capital, access to land and health insurance are the top three obstacles facing new farmers. Record high land prices paired with other equipment and supply startup costs equate to a significant FSA loan application that can max out at $300,000.

Beginning farmers overcome barriers with web, crowd fundingSecretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has identified the need for more young farmers as the national farm population has fallen from above six million in 1910 to around two million.

Side-stepping the bank applications, MSN reports some beginning farmers are entering the industry by starting small and using crowd funding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to expand their operations.

Crowd funding sites focus on helping artistic and technological projects generate enough capital to complete production. Campaigns will often reward investors with a copy of the final product.

Kickstarter's website claims more than 4.7 million people have contributed more than $769 million to fund over 47,000 creative projects since April 28, 2009. Projects range from films, games and music to design and new technology.

Although Kickstarter isn't intended for agricultural businesses, new farmers are taking advantage of the opportunity. Paul Greive told MSN he used Kickstarter to raise more than $40,000 to expand his California farm from 1,000 free-range chickens and 80 grass-fed lambs. Greive is using the campaign money to lease 200 acres where he can add grass-fed beef, free-range ducks and turkeys.

MSN reports there are currently over 600 crowd funding campaigns related to farming including dairies, chicken coops and organic operations. In exchange for the investment, farmers benefitting from crowd funding offer investors T-shirts, farm tours or even products from the farm.

With only a few days to go, Greive has been rewarded for his efforts, collecting over $45,000.

"It's been an unbelievable marketing opportunity," Greive said. "Going into it, we knew that even if we didn't meet our [funding] goal, we would still benefit from trying crowd funding."