Sawmill Hollow Family Farm expands its aronia berry business with a micro-loan from Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program. The organic family farm, recognized as the first aronia berry farm in the United States, will use the funds to purchase a walk-in freezer to store and preserve hand-picked aronia berries.
“Sawmill Hollow Family Farm shares our Core Values to serve and support local communities, and to practice and advance environmental stewardship,” says Stefanie Garcia, Local Forager, Whole Foods Market Midwest region. “We are thrilled to continue to support them through our Local Producer Loan Program and help them grow their business.”
The Local Producer Loan Program allows small, local, independent producers to expand their business with a small, low interest loan. In 2006, Whole Foods Market set aside $10 million for the Local Producer Loan Program to help small business farmers, growers and artisans with low-interest loans for capital expenditures and has since increased the amount available to up to $25 million. The program minimizes fees, interest rates and paperwork. Loans generally range from $10,000 to $100,000 with a 5 percent interest rate. Funds are typically used for expansion and capital expenditures such as buying more animals, investing in new equipment and infrastructure, or expanding crops.
Sawmill Hollow Family Farm reintroduced the native but then regionally endangered aronia berry (Aronia melanocarpa) nearly two decades ago. The bushes grow easily without harsh fertilizers such as nitrogen and without pesticides and herbicides. Nestled in the scenic Loess Hills, the family farm hand picks the aronia berries, a small, purple fruit with a tart and dry taste when eaten raw. The aronia berry contains more antioxidants than the açaí berry, goji berry and pomegranates. Sawmill Hollow Family Farms has found creative ways to feature the aronia berries in powders, concentrates and other food products for those looking for the benefits of the superfood without the tart taste.
“I love driving store-to-store, connecting with customers, offering aronia berry product samples, and sharing our farm-to-market story,” says sixth generation family farmer and Sawmill Hollow Farmer-in-Chief, Andrew Pittz. “When my grandfather’s grandfather came to Iowa, no family had the resources to go-it-alone. Neighbors worked together to grow together, letting shared values and an eye to the future lead the way. Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program represents the work together to grow together support small farms need to grow and be successful.”
“The Local Producer Loan Program is another way we can help small local businesses like Sawmill Hollow Family Farm develop and grow,” adds Garcia.
Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan recipients have a unique partnership with Whole Foods Market. Garcia and her team work with local producers to share their products with Whole Foods Market customers, help them support the communities and reinforce the value of environmental sustainability.