Growing up in Tanzania, East Africa, Sangiwa Eliamani became a skilled farmer producing rice, millet and cotton throughout the year, using typical hand tools. He had no concerns about seasonal timing or finding markets for his crops, until he moved to the United States and attempted to farm in Massachusetts.
“Over there [in Tanzania] it’s very different,” he said. “We don’t have this limited time to grow. We have easier access to land and markets to sell our products.”
Sangiwa moved to the U.S. in hopes of better opportunities, but it seemed his passion for farming may be put on hold when he discovered high land prices, short growing seasons and complex crop marketing.
Though this realization came hard, Sangiwa could not stop thinking about cultivating the land. That’s when he found World Farmers/Flats Mentor Farm, an organization that assists and supports small farmers of diverse ethnic backgrounds by providing them with access to land, farming infrastructure and marketing assistance needed to sustain successful farming enterprises.
World Farmers/Flats Mentor Farm is one of several organizations that have partnered with the Massachusetts Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help small, beginning and specialty farmers start or expand their operations. Through its Outreach and Education division, FSA works to develop partnerships with local, regional and national agricultural organizations through more than 2,200 county FSA offices nationwide.
Since 1999, more than 200 beginning farmers have received USDA and FSA assistance, including microloans and the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), as a result of the World Farmers/Flats Mentor Farm and FSA partnership.
“Because of this partnership, many farmers have rediscovered their connection to and passion for agriculture,” said FSA County Executive Director Kip Graham.
Sangiwa was one of them.
This summer, Sangiwa was approved for a microloan and used some of FSA’s beginning farmer benefits like the fee waiver for NAP. He now rents two acres of land and the dream of purchasing his own farmland seems possible. The microloan helped Sangiwa purchase his own rototiller, farmers’ market tent, coolers, seeds and fertilizer.
The FSA microloan program is available to all farmers, including beginning, small and mid-sized farmers, providing up to $50,000 in loans using a simplified application process. Since the program began in 2013, over 20,000 farmers received microloans. About 70 percent of microloans are issued to beginning farmers and 55 percent to first-time FSA borrowers.
“My biggest fear was that [FSA] wouldn’t accept me. It wasn’t so,” said Sangiwa. “With beginning farmer support and FSA’s microloan, I now have the equipment and resources I need to continue and expand my operation.”
For more information on FSA microloans, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/microloans. Details on the NAP program can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap. To find your nearest FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov. And to learn more how USDA can help beginning farmers, visit newfarmers.usda.gov.
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Hello Mrs. Maria Moreira executive director of World Farmers and Flat Mentor Farm.
I am just like Sangiwa, Organic farmer trying to get get to have farmland, and apply for micro loan, but the USDA in Southern California, I spoke to loan officer, say, I have to have land and more than 5 acre, I think they are being very hard on new and beginner farmer like us, that passion for agriculture, we have.
and making it hard for us, because we are not big farmer. I feel like I am being discriminated, and would like to file claim.
Would you please help us to be like Sangiwa, thank you.
@Silvia Organic Farm - thank you very much for your comment. USDA prohibits discrimination against its customers. We will have someone from the Farm Service Agency reach out to you shortly. Meanwhile, if you would like to file a complaint of discrimination you may complete the <a href="https://www.ascr.usda.gov/ad-3027-usda-program-discrimination-complaint…; rel="nofollow">USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form</a>, or write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).
Interesting, We went to the FSA/USDA office here in the state of Georgia to pursue a Farm Purchase loan. We were told it would take 6 to 9 months with only a 50% approval rating. I am a US Citizen, Hispanic Female, my husband is Native American - I guess we have to be migrants or illegals to get a loan these days? A farm seller does not want to wait that long to sell and even then they have no guarantee a loan will go through so why would they wait? The websites and information on-line look so nice and promising but is not a reflection of the reality. I have researched the internet and I see that there has been numerous discrimination complaints with the USDA and I would assume that here in the south it is a reality too aside from the long waits and low loan approvals.
If these allegations of discrimination's are not expeditiously resolved in a transparent manner, the USDA risk losing credibility before citizens like me who wants to begin farming. I hope, the leadership of USDA will do something to reassure minorities like me to dream the American Dream and have a fair chance to realize it without legal, bureaucratic and covert institutional barriers.
@Folorunsho Nicholas Omogbehin - Hi Folorunsho, thanks for reaching out. Over the past eight years USDA has worked hard so that everyone can achieve their agricultural dreams. This is something we take very seriously. Since 2009, we’ve made it a priority to change the culture of USDA from top to bottom, inside and out, by correcting past errors, ensuring service is fair and that our customers are represented in all that we do. We have increased farm loans to underserved and socially-disadvantaged members from $379.4 million in 2008, to $827.3 million in 2015, to make farming a reality for more Americans; established an Office of Advocacy and Outreach to improve access to our programs; and created a Minority Farmer Advisory Committee to guide policies that impact the diverse communities we serve. For a comprehensive list of our civil rights efforts, <a href="http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&content…; rel="nofollow">check out our Results page here</a>.