Bahner Family Farm
Mike and Christa Bahner benefited tremendously from having varied farming experiences in Maine before acquiring their own 37-acre farm on Rte. 3 in Belmont in 2009. With their 5.5 acres of organic mixed veggies, they now manage a farm stand, 3 farmers’ markets, along with summer and winter CSA shares for individuals, Waldo County General Hospital and Athena Health. They do all of this while raising two children, ages 1 and 3!
The Bahners originally bought their farm through the Farm Service Agency Farm Loan program. In 2011, they received a Phase I grant from the Farms for the Future program to rewrite their business plan and to do advanced business planning. This led to plans for a future roadside farmstand and to the creation of their “Packing Palace”, a building to develop washing, packing and storage capacity. They won a Phase II Farms for the Future grant to implement their plans. A low interest loan through the Ag Marketing Loan Fund and the Finance Authority of Maine helped them meet the costs that were not met by the grant. NRCS grants, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), helped them build a compost pad & access road, install a high tunnel, and develop waterways for erosion control.
About the same time, they’d outgrown their market vehicle and were matched up with an individual lender new to the Slow Money Maine network. This $7000 loan @3% (since paid back) was used to purchase a box truck for market use. The box truck was significantly larger than their previous market vehicles and helped them expand sales at farmers markets.
In April of that year, the couple created a Kickstarter campaign which SMM promoted in its educational outreach about crowd funding opportunities. They raised over $13K, exceeding their goal, to build a farm stand. Mike & Christa had been clear that they needed to use the advantage of major road visibility to increase awareness and sales and the stand has been hugely successful. Income from it had an 80% increase in 2014 over last year and is just under their biggest market in Bar Harbor.
Since then, Mike & Christa have further developed the Farm Stand and transitioned to year-round growing, which provides much improved cash flow, from winter-harvested greens and storage crops. They have continued to add high tunnels for increased production and have been able to provide work for a summer employee through the winter months, which has created time and space for farm owners to meet ongoing personal and professional needs. SMM has connected them to additional loans from Maine Organic Lenders for equipment, and to mentoring grant writing help that resulted in an $200,000 value added producer grant!!!
Images courtesy of the Bahner Family Farm Facebook Page
Bahner Family Farm
Christa & Michael Bahner
153 Augusta Road
Belmont, ME 04952
Phone: (207) 342-2592