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FSA Facility Loan Gives Washington State Producers Marketing Advantage

Posted by Cassie Bable, FSA Public Affairs Specialist in Farming
Nov 03, 2017
Man picking apples
A Farm Storage Facility Loan helped the Belisles purchase and install a cooler that increased their apple storage capacity by 210 bins. They now have more flexibility when it comes to marketing their apples.

John and Dorie Belisle own and operate BelleWood Acres in northwest Washington State, near the Canadian border. The Belisles and their family planted their first apple orchard in 1996 and have 31 acres of high density trees, which pencils out to about 25,000 trees.

The Belisles started out selling apples to wholesale markets. After experiencing a downturn in the market, they knew it was time to diversify their operation and gain a competitive advantage to boost their margins when market prices drop. The Belisles wanted to open a retail store and had an agritourism model in mind.

In 2009, they purchased property from their neighbor to establish the retail store. Before opening the storefront, the Belisles wanted to install an additional cooler to have a marketing advantage.  

They used a USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) to purchase and install a cooler that increased their storage capacity by 210 bins. The additional cooler space allows the Belisles to store more of their apples on the farm to sell locally and diversify their operation. The cooler was built at the farm where there is a packing line, juice line and wholesale commercial kitchen.

“We did it to play the markets,” said Dorie. “If wholesale markets are strong, we sell; if prices are poor, we use the apples in our distillery. It makes us more secure in a world where prices are variable.”

Inside of a cooler at BelleWood Acres
Each January, BelleWood Acres cleans out the cooler to make room for the next crop. They fill 52 totes with what will be apple cider and spirits after the fermenting and distilling process.

FSFLs provide low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade farm storage or handling facilities to store eligible commodities they produce. The maximum loan amount is $500,000 with a minimum down payment of 15 percent. Loan terms are up to 12 years. 

The Belisles learned of the FSFL program through their FSA county office electronic newsletter and recently paid off the loan.

“We appreciate the support we get from FSA and USDA,” said Dorie. “It’s important to make sure we survive.”

The Belisles now sell wholesale and retail. Since they can store more apples on the farm, produce and farm products are sold at the Bellingham Farmers Market, Haggen Food Stores and Community Food Co-ops.

With additional cooler room, the Belisles decided to take it a step further and added a distillery to their operation. The imperfect apples are used to make spirits at the first “farm to glass” distillery in Washington State. They used a USDA Rural Development (RD) Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) that matched their financial contribution.

“With the grant, we were able to learn more about the spirit world and hire someone to help us establish a market and design labels,” said Dorie. “They also helped us get staff on board to make it happen.”

The goal of BelleWood Acres is to be a destination. The retail store sits off the state highway and offers 21 varieties of apples, sparkling cider, farm-ground peanut butter, caramel apples, pies, pastries and more. Visitors can shop the retail store, tour the distillery to learn about the process of growing, fermenting and distilling before ordering a bite to eat at BelleWood Acres Country Café, all while enjoying the view of Mount Baker. BelleWood Acres also has a u-pick apple orchard and pumpkins in the fall.

For more information on FSA programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov or contact your local FSA office. To find your local USDA Service Center, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Man standing in a field
A Farm Storage Facility Loan helped the Belisles purchase and install a cooler that increased their apple storage capacity by 210 bins. They now have more flexibility when it comes to marketing their apples.
Category/Topic: Farming
Tags: farming FSA FSFL

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Comments

hasta gautam
Jan 30, 2018

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I'm Hasta Gautam, live in Austin, Texas, and used the wheelchair and spent time all the day at home.
Life is really boring without income and I have no any sources of income to care my two kids and wife.

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I have no idea in Texas where from I can get organic product selling authorize support.
And also give me your helping hand to start the small business to suppliers organic product and I can work in this field.
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So please let me know some resources where I can work and get perfect way to catch my dreams to be able to work in my life.

thanking you

hasta gautam
Aroma Nepal.
Austin, Texas

satish chandra chandra
Aug 18, 2018

I want to Export apples and apple byproducts to India.Please provide Procedure for Export of Agricultural Products.

Ben Weaver
Aug 20, 2018

@satish chandra chandra - Thank you for your query. Whether you are new to exporting or your company has been in the business for years, find out how USDA and its partners can help you build markets for your products around the globe: www.fas.usda.gov/exporting

C
Oct 07, 2018

Just a note - Bellingham is not the last town before the Border with Canada, and those farming towns should be recognized not minimized in the article.

Ben Weaver
Oct 09, 2018

@C - thank you for your comment. We have made your suggested correction within the blog.