February 6, 2011
The new face of small scale financing
It seems like every time I look up there's a new way for small start-ups to raise funds. Peer-to-peer lending, micro-loans, group funded philanthropy, you name it someone's made it possible. We have a number of friends and acquaintances who've made use of Kickstarter, and I have to say the theory behind it is wonderful, especially if you've got a great new product in mind but you don't have the funds to produce it en masse. In my mind, the biggest downside to these funding methods is the various cuts taken along the way, a successful Kickstarter campaign can lose 10% to these middlemen. I am fully aware that these are the costs of doing business, Johnson and I were just discussing how the price of basically everything is 3% higher than it needs to be because of the proliferation of credit cards, and you can't often save that money by using cash.
You know me though, I can't just use a good thing, I have to tweak it a bit and make it my own. In recent months I've considered a number of Kickstarter proposals that could benefit our farm and homestead, ideas like a 0 mile meal, where absolutely everything would be grown here on our property, or a pre-buy for our fledgling pastured chicken operation. One of the great tenets of Kickstarter is that those who are funded should provide an incentive for the funder. Tech startups provide pre-buys, artists offer original work, and restaurants give coupons and gift certificates.
While we have plenty to offer, meat, produce, a damn good time, I'm hesitant to put these on a pedestal. As food growers we don't strive for consumers to buy our products for special occasions, but instead to elevate their consumption as a whole and work towards eating and purchasing more locally, and more communally. Now, just because it's a goal doesn't mean we expect to fully attain it, after all we still buy a lot of our food from Wegman's, and we haven't put as much energy as I'd like towards buying locally. Lofty goals are necessary to make big impacts, just ask Coca Cola, who at one point had a corporate goal that people would drink more Coke products than they drank water (a goal attained in Mexico.)
So, how else can a poor farmer raise funds? It just so happens that something else has been in the news a lot recently. Lotteries are one of the oldest tricks in the book for fundraising, used for everything from bolstering the nation's education funds to providing arms for the Civil War. Often referred to as a regressive tax, gambling persists for a number of reasons, the most of which is obvious: It's fun. Our lives are especially filled with uncertainty: Did the pigs eat all the chicken's food today? Will the well be frozen? Is there an impending snowpocalypse? One question in particular has pervaded our thoughts here at TBA farms, and soon I will invite you to answer it along with us.