Wanted: Farmers with innovative ideas – who need to money to make them happen

By Lindsay Advocate

When Jack Roks sees the large towers where Mariposa Dairy puts its milk, he’s reminded of how a small, innovative idea can become a thriving international business.

“Mariposa (Dairy) started out in someone’s kitchen and now produces goat cheese for Canada (and the U.S.),” says Roks, president of the Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes.

It’s this kind of success story that helped inspire the creation of the CFKL’s Agri-Innovation Loan Program, in a partnership with the Business Community Development Corporation.

The foundation is seeking local farmers whose outside-the-box proposals may not fit the requirements of traditional lenders – and were, likely, turned down in the past by conventional banks.

“We are looking for those ideas that are a little bit more ‘out there,’” Roks explains in the most recent episode of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes. “Those (farmers) who just need someone to help them…turn that hobby or a passion into a business.”

He offers examples of the pitches the foundation’s decision-makers will consider:  making organic soap, developing organic compost or raising bees for honey. “We’re looking for anyone in the food chain,” he tells podcast host, Denis Grignon. “It’s not just traditional farmers.”

The loan interest rate, says Roks, is slightly higher than prime. “Because of the greater risk.”

But, he stresses, the program’s purpose is not to turn a huge profit. “If we can help the next generation of (innovative farmers),” says Roks, a retired lawyer who grew up on farm near London, Ontario and now lives on Cameron Lake, “that would be our success.”

Listen to the full interview in Episode 30 of The Advocate Podcast: Stories from Kawartha Lakes, sponsored by Wards Lawyers. Subscribe for free on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Or click the link at the top of this page.

More information on the CFKL’s Agri-Innovation Loan Program at kawarthafoundation.ca

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