NEW Economic and Social Impacts of FarmWorks Support for Food Related Businesses in Nova Scotia – 2020 Survey Results
FarmWorks Clients – please call or email Linda any time. FarmWorks Shareholders – our Clients appreciate your support. FarmWorks Clients Providing Food, Beverages, Goods during COVID
FarmWorks promotes and provides strategic and responsible community investment in food production and distribution in order to increase access to a sustainable local food supply for all Nova Scotians.
Food for our future
Farmers, distributors, processors and chefs in Nova Scotia work together to put delicious food safely on the tables of people who buy local. But it’s not always possible to find local food. The lowest price is the law has driven many people off the land or out of business. Low prices, mostly for food imported from countries that may not provide worker benefits that local producers must pay for, have cost us the security of a local supply of foods other than milk, eggs and chicken.
Yes, we have no bananas, but we do have land and producers who are working hard to provide excellent food and beverages. Producers need customers who are able to pay fair prices so they can afford to pay good wages and rebuild infrastructure and distribution. With sufficient sales they will be able to produce more, helping to ensure that every person in Nova Scotia has access to sufficient healthy food.
At this time, as we look across the province at the number of farmers and producers and chefs who are stepping up to the plate to provide for their communities, it’s clear that they can grow to meet the demand – even year-round.
COVID 19 is causing us to carefully consider where our food comes from. Global issues are impacting every facet of our economy and causing a rapid increase in awareness of the benefits of local production. We have no assurance that everything will return to the previous status quo. This presents opportunities for us to help build a more sustainable food system.
We have reached a point where we need our food producers even more than they need us. A New Normal is inevitable and and delicious, healthy food produced close to home is crucial for our future.
FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited was established in May 2011 by community leaders concerned about Nova Scotian agriculture and food: economic issues, security of supply in a changing world, cost, health, social and cultural issues and the environment. FarmWorks’ mission is to promote, and provide, strategic and responsible community investment in food production and distribution in order to increase access to a sustainable local food supply for all Nova Scotians.
Finding financial and other support to establish and operate food-related businesses can be difficult, especially for younger entrepreneurs or those who are not eligible for financing through existing lending agencies.
Recognizing the benefits of investments in local businesses, the Government of Nova Scotia established a program in 1999 to enable private investment in Community Economic Development Investment Funds . FarmWorks established a CEDIF that started selling shares in 2012. By the middle of 2020, FarmWorks had raised $3,226,600 and loaned $5,166,000 to client entrepreneurs in various sectors of the Nova Scotian food supply chain including farmers, processers, retailers and restauranteurs who qualified to receive loans.
A survey was completed by 50 of 72 (69%) clients currently supported by FarmWorks at the middle of 2020 to gauge the economic and social impacts of their businesses, FarmWorks’ support for them, clients’ access to mentoring, their assessment of opportunities and challenges and the effects of COVID 19. The survey does not quantify outcomes for 27 businesses that have repaid their loans and continue successfully to operate, 6 businesses that are in transition, 7 that have ceased to operate and 4 that have been written off. Quantifying the economic and social impacts of FarmWorks’ clients helps gauge the role of FarmWorks CEDIF in helping to grow rural and urban food-related businesses.
The importance of FarmWorks loans is clear as 61% indicated that their business would not have succeeded, and 37% considered success would be only somewhat likely without the loan. Thirty two percent of businesses used funding from FarmWorks to get started, 22% were doing poorly prior to the loan and 42% borrowed to improve their businesses. Most loans were multiple-purpose, used for equipment purchases, working capital and leasehold improvements. In response to questions about promotion, 98% of clients indicated that FarmWorks’ assistance was very or somewhat helpful.
The survey results demonstrate that FarmWorks-supported businesses are creating significant positive economic and social impacts. The 50 respondents (of 72) are generating approximately $14,250,000 in annual gross business revenues with annual business expenditures of about $12,900,000 (Note 1). It can be estimated that 72 businesses are generating approximately $20,500,000 in annual gross business revenues with annual business expenditures of about $18,500,000 (Note 1). Multiplier effects ranging from 1.8 to 2.6 for food-related enterprises indicate that FarmWorks’ clients’ annual monetary impact in Nova Scotia may range from $40,000,000 to $60,000,000.
The 50 businesses indicated that prior to COVID 19 they had 233 full-time and part-time employees and by the middle of 2020 they had 217 employees. COVID 19 has affected businesses differently: 12 businesses lost a total of 32 employees and 11 businesses gained 21 for a net loss of 16 jobs, and based on the location of the respondents, only 4 of those were on farms. Extrapolation to 72 businesses would indicate 335 positions pre-COVID and 310 mid-year. Hourly wages ranged from the Nova Scotian minimum wage of $12.55 to $38.00 with an average of wage of $15.47 and 84% of clients paying above the minimum. Every 100 direct jobs in agriculture is estimated to generate another 228 jobs, and in food service 161 jobs, as reported by the USA Economic Policy Institute.
In conjunction with Mentoring Plus, clients were surveyed with respect to their access to mentoring, and 47% said they had access, and 22% had some access to a mentor. Of the 30% who did not have a mentor, most indicated that they didn’t know how to access one or that they hadn’t found someone they trusted.
FarmWorks-supported businesses are providing local employment and purchasing goods and services in their area or the province, they’re providing good food and are raising awareness of the benefits of supporting the local economy, they’re supporting community endeavours, the restaurants have become hubs for their communities and those that are restaurants, cafés and markets are contributing to year-round tourism from near and far.
FarmWorks clients contributed many thoughtful comments about FarmWorks, on Nova Scotia’s ability to be more food-secure, and on the contributions of their businesses, such as the following:
“Farmworks has been incredibly supportive and helpful in assisting us start up our business and with checking-in to see if there’s anything we need along the way. We’re very grateful that such a program exists for Nova Scotians! Thank you for keeping up with the important work everyone – N.S. has wonderfully hard-working and clever food producers under your umbrella :)”
“Now to also keep focusing on closing the gaps between the producers and their markets… let’s work hard to build a strong & comprehensive distribution network!”.
“Supporting Local Growers, Providing exposure to our local area and driving up tourism, helping to educate the public on the importance of eating and purchasing local food, volunteering opportunities and greater capacity to give back”
“Creating meaningful employment, providing additional revenue for farmers and other small businesses and social enterprises, creating a business that our community is proud of.”
“Purchasing inputs for the farm (parts, fencing, fuel). Selling hay locally. Making the farmland visually appealing.”
FarmWorks provides much-needed support for entrepreneurs who are creating and expanding food-related businesses in Nova Scotia. The multiplier effects of CEDIF investments generally, and FarmWorks specifically, require additional analysis beyond the scope of this report.
FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited, incorporated in 2011, operates as a Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) that enables Nova Scotians annually to purchase common shares in a diversified portfolio of businesses that yield meaningful financial returns on investments. These investments provide loans to farms, food processors, and value-added food producers, helping to increase the viability and sustainability of agriculture and the security of a healthy food supply.
FarmWorks partners with investors, loan recipients, other lenders and other food-related organizations. These partnerships contribute to the growth and success of food-related enterprises across the province. FarmWorks Directors and Advisors support enterprises that successfully and sustainably increase production and profitability.
In eight offers years Nova Scotians have invested $2,716,900 in FarmWorks CEDIF. Loans have already been made to over 95 businesses. Loan repayments are immediately available to lend to other businesses.