11/12/2013 06:22 pm ET

Kiva Zip & Small Farms Team Up to Bring You Better Food

"Kiva Zip is a new and extraordinary resource for farmers, and provides a unique opportunity for citizens around the world to support farmers working to provide their communities with healthful, fresh food." - Alan and Jo, Owners of Riverhill Farm in Nevada City, CA

Kiva is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that connects millions of people around the world through lending to alleviate poverty and expand opportunity. With as little as a $25 loan, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy and realize his or her potential. Since its inception in 2005, Kiva and their growing global community of 1 million lenders have crowdfunded more than $490 million in loans to over 1 million people.

Kiva is continuing to innovate through their new pilot project, Kiva Zip, currently operating in the U.S. and Kenya. Kiva Zip enables anyone -- organizations or individuals who care about small businesses -- to endorse entrepreneurs seeking microloans to advance social good and start or expand their small business. Once endorsed, borrowers can connect directly with Kiva's growing global community of lenders to receive interest-free loans.

Recently, Kiva Zip began reaching out to small farms and food producers as potential borrowers due to their financial exclusion and the growing consumer movement toward organic, sustainable agriculture in the U.S.

Alan and his wife Jo, owners of Riverhill Farm in Nevada City, CA, are one such example of a small farm benefitting from a Kiva Zip loan. They used their Kiva Zip loan to purchase equipment for their farm, including deer fencing, a delivery van, and a tractor tool bar. They were referred to Kiva Zip by California FarmLink, an economic development organization for underserved farmers.

Having successfully completed the fundraising process, Alan offers his reflection on his Kiva Zip experience and tells us why Kiva Zip fills a need for small farms that are not addressed elsewhere. These small, crowd-funded loans, together with the power of consumer choice, can make small farms successful and sustainable agriculture more feasible.

"My wife and I farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. We've worked with California FarmLink for the past two years to get financial counseling and to obtain small annual operating loans to cover production costs. Last year, we discussed obtaining a FarmLink capital loan, and FarmLink sponsored us to obtain that loan from Kiva Zip.

Pictured: Alan and Jo, Owners of Riverhill Farm

While our Kiva Zip loan was funding, it was an extraordinary experience to communicate with citizen lenders from all over the world over the time that it took to become fully funded. We were really impressed with the process, and we think that it holds great promise as a new initiative to address the needs of small farms across the U.S.

The strength of the local food movement of the last ten years has done more to address the needs of small, family farms than fifty years of failed State and Federal government efforts. The proliferation of Farmers' Markets across the U.S. and increased patronage of those markets demonstrates consumer support for access to local, healthful food. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has also been an important element that supports many small farms by supplying early season capital to cover the direct costs of production.

These markets are important outlets for small farms. Still, while many family farms are successful in covering the direct costs of production and pay themselves a modest income, few are able to build up a capital reserve that provides for equipment purchases and expansion of production to make their operations more profitable, and access to capital through traditional lending institutions is challenging for many small farms.

Kiva Zip is a new and extraordinary resource for farmers, and provides a unique opportunity for citizens around the world to support farmers working to provide their communities with healthful, fresh food."

If Kiva Zip sounds like it could be a solution for you and your farm, please complete this short survey to be contacted by a member of Kiva Zip. You can support a local farmer by making a loan!

If you have any questions, please send an email to

Author Bio: Alan Haight farms together with his wife, Jo McProud, at Riverhill Farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Nevada City, California. Established in 2001, Riverhill Farm grows a diversity of vegetable and fruit crops for local markets, and sells through Farmers' Markets and their local natural foods Co-op, BriarPatch. Riverhill Farm is certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).