Old MacDonald had a crowdfunded farm

Rebecca Bloomfield raised over $12,000, making it possible for her to install a deer fence and buy tools she needed to get started. / Craig Cardiff

Rebecca Bloomfield raised over $12,000, making it possible for her to install a deer fence and buy tools she needed to get started. / Craig Cardiff

More than anything, Rebecca Bloomfield wants her own organic farm. To accomplish this though, in a social media age – without much capital – she has to be something else first: a crowdfunding guru.

Just as she taught herself to grow organic food, she’s also taught herself how to organically raise money for her future farm in Ontario, Canada, via crowdfunding – soliciting donations over social media with a video she hopes will tug on heartstrings and wallets alike.

Even future farmers are turning to crowdfunding for cash. Just like other small-business owners who don’t want to – or can’t – take out a bank loan, there are new options for the social-media savvy. Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the go-to fundraising technique for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. According to crowdsourcing research firm Massolution, a growing 16.9% of the crowdfunding activity, which raised $2.7 billion last year, came from small businesses. If this keeps up, crowdfunding platforms could give even the $28-billion-a-year fundraising capability of the U.S. venture capital industry a run for its money.

For Bloomfield, 31, it’s seed money that will actually be used to buy seeds. And she’s already well on her way. Since kicking off her crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, she’s already raised over $12,000, making it possible for her to install a deer fence and buy the tools she needs to get started. And she’s still got a few days left to raise her goal of $25,000.

“I was surprised about the amount of money that came in just a few days,” says Bloomfield, a native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “I guess it was just a gut feeling that crowdfunding would be a really good way to do it.”

Her video, titled “How to Start a Farm in 5 Minutes,” features a little monologue in Bloomfield’s quiet voice about her passion for growing food played over an animated montage of vegetable photos with a plinky, folksy tune on the background. She went online to learn how to use low-budget software like iMovie and Animoto to make her video.

“I loved farming, and I loved growing the food I was eating,” she says. She was hooked on farming after a post-college stint in Italy with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a non-profit connecting organic farmers with young people willing to work in exchange for room and board. Since then, she’s farmed in Connecticut, taught farming at Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, Calif., and ran Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program. But she’s never had a farm of her own. “I feel like people support your idea when they see it’s coming from a place of passion and love.”

Even though Bloomfield’s contributors only get mystery rewards in return, and not high-tech gadgets typical of crowdfunding, Dan Marom, author of The Crowdfunding Revolution, says the real draw is feeling like you’re a part of something bigger. “For as low as $25 you can be part of something that has a positive impact,” he says.

Indiegogo founder Danae Ringelmann says that “there’s no surprise there,” that the crowdfunding platform she helped start to help filmmakers and theater productions find funding has grown to be the sort of thing you can use to start a farm, because she sees it becoming “the incubation platform for the world.”

Bloomfield’s not the first to try crowdfunding a food-growing operation. Whole Foods-sponsored non-profit Whole Kids Foundation recently teamed up with socks-and-underwear maker PACT to try to fund 100 urban gardens on Indiegogo to grow food for schools across the country, offering socks-and-underwear themed rewards. However, only 67 of the urban farms ended up even participating, and only 23 reached their goals of $2,500, many receiving only $100 or less.

What’s going to grow on Bloomfield’s farm? There’s some foods that would only be grown on a little organic farm in Ontario, says Bloomfield, who’s calling it Bloomfield Farm after her own made-for-farming last name. When spinach is grown in cold weather, for instance, it produces extra sugar to keep it from freezing.

“It’s almost like a different product. I had a group of kids come in, and I had them taste the stems,” says Bloomfield. “They said it tasted like candy, and that’s from a kid.”

Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com – by Oliver St. John, USA TODAY


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