Saturday, December 31, 2016

Urban Farming Teams with USDA Loans

Urban farming is becoming a big deal in the Big Apple.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini and New York State Executive Director James Barber recently went to Brooklyn to tour urban agriculture operations funded by USDA microloans.

As more urban farms start in New York City, consumers can find a wider variety of fresh, locally grown vegetables, year round.

“The USDA microloan has expanded funding and opportunities for beginning, niche and small farmers to start or expand their agriculture operations,” said Dolcini. “As urban agriculture continues to grow, FSA loan programs have evolved to keep up with the needs of these unique, creative and trend-setting urban farmers.”

Nine urban entrepreneurs worked with Square Roots and USDA to start their urban farming operation. Square Roots is an organization that promotes urban farming and coaches people with a passion for local food to grow and sell produce locally while building a sustainable business.

The urban entrepreneurs each used the USDA microloan program to secure a low-interest loan to lease a vertical farm from Square Roots and pay for operating expenses such as seed, water and electricity costs.

Vertical farms are repurposed shipping containers tailored for hydroponically growing vegetables and include a water system, heating and cooling units and light-emitting diodes designed to mirror sunlight. Each vertical farm is capable of producing the equivalent of what is grown on two acres of farmland.

Square Roots aims to connect local consumers to the urban farmers who grow a variety of greens and herbs that will be sold at local farmers markets and to local restaurants. The producers expect to harvest their first crop this month.

The urban farmers are growing green salad mixes, lettuce (green and red), spinach, chard and rhubarb chard, arugula, mustards, Genovese basil, shiso (an herb which is a member of the mint family), kale and watercress.

USDA microloans are low interest loans developed to better serve the unique financial needs of new, niche and small to mid-sized family farm operations. 

Microloans offer more flexible access to credit and serve as an attractive loan alternative for smaller farming operations, like specialty crop producers. Borrowers can use the microloan for operating expenses or to purchase, expand or improve a farm. The maximum loan amount is $50,000.

To learn more about the USDA microloan program, visit or contact your local FSA office. To find your local FSA office, visit

Also, you can check out this  story about the urban farming movement.

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