I grew up in a farming and ranching community in Southern Colorado and rode the bus 15 miles to school every morning. On those 7 am bus rides, I remember watching the open fields of the country fill in with houses and infrastructure as we drove, thinking how lucky I was not to be a city kid. I loved the open space and mythical hard work of the agricultural lifestyle. Of course, what I didn’t see was the heartbreak and financial hardship our friends and neighbors experienced every day.
With the rise of commercial farming and the ever increasing international demand for food, smaller producers are being squeezed out of the marketplace and lack the size and backing to fight back. For many farmers and ranchers, their year consists of taking out large agricultural loans, fighting tooth and nail to bring a crop or herd to market, then repaying the loan at the end of the year with interest. Often, what is left is meager at best; in years when blight, flooding, disease, or other unforeseen disasters eliminate their production, they are left in debt to the bank, and without the means to secure another loan. So ends the story of many small producers.
Recognizing the need to support small growers in the international food chain, startup company ProducePay sprung onto the scene last year to provide a new model of web-based funding mechanisms for farmers – with specific emphasis on perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables. The company brings new technology and ways of thinking to the world’s second oldest profession and provides a one stop resource for growers looking for initial funding and connections with buyers.
Founded by Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck – a fourth generation farmer from Mexico boasting an impressive agricultural resume and a Cornell MBA – ProducePay is run by an executive team which blends backgrounds in finance, technology, and agriculture. This mixture of experience has resulted in a model that accounts for the ancient needs of growers and responds with the speed of the digital age. Farmers are connected quickly with buyers in their markets and provided with tools such as a digital dashboard which tracks market conditions, deliveries, payment schedules, and more. Additionally, growers are paid up to 50% of the value of each shipment the day it is revived by a buyer – a sharp departure from traditional models in which farmers often don’t see a dime until after their final harvest. Buyers and distributors are also incentivized by the streamlined nature of the business model and eager pool of growers. ProducePay assumes control of payouts to growers, providing greater convenience to distributors, and again makes available web-based tracking tools displaying a wealth of metrics.
Already, ProducePay is making waves in both the startup and agricultural communities. The company has enjoyed overwhelmingly positive press and generated strong backing by private investors. There is a key intersection at play between the growing interest in farm-to-table food and the desire to support small business; in this way, the company is a great example of the type of endeavor that provides an outstanding product while providing the warm and fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing. And while small producers will likely never again compete with factory farms, companies such as ProducePay are doing their part to preserve the lifestyle I fell in love with so many years ago.
Would you be more likely to buy fresh fruits and vegetable grown through the help of companies like ProducePay? Drop us a line @StarterNoise and tell us why or why not.
James Stuart is a failed astronomer, paleontologist, and amateur beekeeper turned writer. Once described as “enervating, but fun,” his interests are varied – including things, stuff, places, and events. He is on a lifelong pursuit to know as much as possible about everything, and will ensure you always have something interesting to talk about at the bar.