One of the latest trends in finding venture capital is crowdfunding, the process of collecting a large number of relatively small contributions from hundreds of even thousands of people rather than relying on a single large financier. Rooted in the idea of crowdsourcing—the idea that leveraging small contributions from many individuals can develop the collective in a way that individuals working alone cannot—crowdfunding’s most well-known mechanism in Kickstarter. Working through Kickstarter, individuals have collectively financed everything from art exhibits and films to board and video games.
Now, Primal Pastures, a small farm raising poultry, beef, lamb, pork, turkey and duck on open pastures in Temecula, California, has turned to Kickstarter to finance its efforts to expand pastured, organic, permaculture-based livestock rearing. They are already over half way to raising their $40,000 goal by September 8. Like all Kickstarter campaigns, Primal Pastures offers various rewards depending on the level of contribution, ranging from a simple thank you (at the $1 level) to “The Golden Egg,” a flock of 50 pastured birds laying an estimated 10-12 dozen eggs per week (at the $5,000 level).
The use of Kickstarter is an interesting approach to the challenges faced by local community supported farms. CSAs often face the challenge of lacking sufficient startup capital to begin operations. While the up-front payments in which the CSA model is rooted help farmers deal with fluctuations in year-to-year production and reduce the heavy burden imposed by annual operating costs, essentially providing bridge funding between the up-front costs at the start of the growing season and the recouping of costs at the end of the growing season, there have been few mechanisms to address the high start-up costs associated with farming in the first place. Indeed, the high costs of agricultural land is the single largest barrier to people entering farming. And while Primal Pasture’s relatively small Kickstarter campaign is unlikely to provide enough financing to eliminate that barrier, it does provide an interesting way to re-think the entry barriers to local farming. I’m wishing them luck!