Dairy farmer Becky King contacted California FarmLink in 2006 for help starting a small farm. After ten years in agriculture and the culinary arts, she had put together a solid vision and draft business plan for a sheep cheese dairy. In 2007, she located a lease opportunity through FarmLink–a 60-acre farm that was transitioning to a pasture-based operation with ample room for a sheep dairy. California FarmLink helped her negotiate a lease contract with the owners. That summer, she was accepted into FarmLink’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. With California FarmLink matching her $100 a month savings three-to-one, she will have $9,600 at the end of the two-year program to use on dairy infrastructure.
For the first year, she did cheese making trials and worked on required permits. “Dealing with permitting and building plans, I realized the requirements for an inspected, certified dairy weren’t going to be quick or cheap. With the amount of effort required to get permits, it made more sense to plan for the long-term.” As a result, her parents invested some of their retirement money to purchase a farm they could lease back to her and eventually have her buy. With this plan, long-term investments in the milking facility and pasture made sense.
In March, 2008, she was approved for a $90,000 California FarmLink loan to develop her dairy. “Dairy is infrastructure intensive and I need all the capital up front before I have a single product to sell legally. So securing a large loan with beneficial rates, structured so that I can pay it back when I have income is a huge help.”
King markets her lambs to local CSAs, along with her cheese, which she also sells to restaurants and cheese shops. For more of King’s pictures and on-going farm tales, see: http://ardigasna.blogspot.com/