Restaurants and other businesses were a key source of revenue for many small farmers until COVID-19 hit. Demand for the direct purchase of local and sustainable farm products is exploding, but most local farms are not equipped with the tools they need to efficiently and effectively sell to consumers.
Dan Miller is the CEO of Steward, a crowd farming company that provides individual investment opportunities in sustainable agriculture. He says the goal is to help small-to-medium sized operations with already established markets and products accelerate their growth and raise much-needed capital.
"Users can come to the website and they can invest either directly in individual farms or they can invest in the Steward farm trust which is a single investment that’s diversified across all the farms," says Miller. "So, the goal of Steward is really to bring capital to the network of regenerative farms out there that often struggle with access to capital. They’re effectively lending capital to the farms and they receive their return from interest payments."
Miller says they soon realized that there was also a need for tools and services to help support the small farm business. The company is now offering e-commerce software to help with these tasks.
"With this tool we can help them get their book organized, provide a bookkeeper to them that can keep them organized as they go, and it really works in sync," he says. "They have a tool to raise capital that they need, often working capital to grow the business, they have an e-commerce tool to generate more sales and higher margin direct sales to customers, and then an accounting suite to manage all the different elements."