In the fall of 2012, the VFC Board of Directors started a P6 Microlending Initiative. Through this program, an individual or farm that is currently selling their product to the VFC is eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $3,000 for a new project or infrastructure. Loans must be paid back within one year. Through this Microlending Initiative the VFC strengthens small, local farms and producers that supply the Co-op and creates opportunities to improve their operations.
We are pleased to announce that Second Cloud on the Left Farm in La Farge, Wisconsin is the 2014 VFC P6 Microlending recipient. The Committee is happy to fulfill their entire request of $1,629 for their Lettuce Mix Harvesting and Season Extension Project. Second Cloud is owned and operated by Toril and Drew Fisher who specialize in growing two specific varieties of produce: heirloom tomatoes and heirloom leafy greens. Though they have made tremendous strides in both areas, market demand is stronger in the area of greens.
Harvesting leafy greens is extremely time consuming. With hand held harvest knives and bins, one person can harvest about 6 pounds per hour and wash and pack around 12 pounds per hour. With one part of the loan, Second Cloud is purchasing a hand-held, mechanized harvester that harvests greens at a maximum rate of 175 pounds per hour. This will allow Second Cloud to complete their harvesting process in less than an hour and move field workers onto the wash and pack line, increasing their ability to move and ship more product to market and improve sales.
With the second part of the loan, Second Cloud will improve upon their season extension technologies on the farm. Season extension technologies such as hoop houses and row covers provide numerous advantages to farmers who can leverage these technologies and increase their production from eight months to 10-12 months of the year. Currently, Second Cloud has two hoop houses. Part of the VFC P6 Microloan will be used to improve their greenhouse operations through the purchase of a large roll of greenhouse plastic to maximize and extend the greens season in both hoop houses into December and January. The plastic will replace woven agricultural fabrics that provide secondary coverage for greens in the hoop houses. This cover holds and maintains soil temperatures and humidity better than the agricultural fabrics.
Time and human resource management issues are critical to the success of small farms. The VFC P6 Microloan allows Second Cloud On The Left Farm to leverage small farm technologies to improve their harvest times of green lettuce mixes and also extend the produce season in their hoop houses in order to provide more greens to the VFC and surrounding markets, year round. For more information about the VFC P6 Microlending Initiative, visit: http://viroquafood.coop/you-own-it/microlending-initiative/
Congratulations to Toril and Drew Fisher, we look forward to growing our partnership with you.
P6 Microlending Committee