Astoria Food Hub Opportunity for Community to Invest in Food Security, Support Local Producers

From Jared Gardner, Nehalem River Ranch
We have super exciting news to share! Nehalem River Ranch is partnering with a group of food system leaders to purchase a 27,000 square foot historic Astoria waterfront building to launch the Astoria Food Hub, and investing in the infrastructure for a more resilient and equitable regional food system.
Hilary and I ventured into food production in 2014 because we saw how broken our food system is. Covid gave us additional clarity on that and how brittle and unequal things are.
The Astoria Food Hub was conceived through years or community dialogue and grant funded feasibility research. In essence, the Food Hub is about keeping as many food dollars as local as possible so the farmer/fisher/rancher share is higher and our communities are more economically viable.
In the spirit of keeping money in our communities we are using Steward Lending for our real estate loan. Steward allows you as individuals to invest through Steward in slices of our loan, or “loan participations”. We avoid big banks and big fees and you get to earn 7% on your money with a secured loan and then in five years we will refinance and you get your entire investment back. We have skipped conventional banks for our commercial loan, and partnered with Steward, a private lender, that creates an opportunity for the community to participate in the loan–with as little as $100.  We are asking one thousand people to consider joining us with $1000, some have been at $100, others have been at $10,000. It will all help us reach our goal! Participate in the Astoria Food Hub loan, and receive monthly repayments with 7% interest. Support has been rolling, and we’ve raised 51% of our $700,000 goal IN ONE WEEK!

Why Steward Lending?
We’ve been watching and supporting Steward Lending since we met founder Dan Miller right after we started Nehalem River Ranch. Steward is a lender that allows individuals like you to invest in slices of larger secured loans like the Astoria Food Hub! Steward handles all the legal compliance and manages the payments so we make one payment to them and they transfer payments to each of you based on your investment.

Founder Dan has a huge vision and proven track record (he and his brother built Fundrise into $500 million+ lending/investing platform) and has brought this passion to funding farmers and food systems projects. Coming from an access to capital background I instantly knew Steward would make a difference and have referred friends who have successfully used their platform for their enterprises.

For more info on the vision behind Steward check them out here.

If you are interested and able, the process is straightforward:
1) go to our project page, review documents, and choose an amount (min $100, $1-5k+ ideal). You’ll be paid 7% interest rate and after 5 years get your entire investment back;
2) Click “lend to this project” which will take you to a sign up page to create a secure profile;
3) You can either transfer directly from a bank account or schedule a wire transfer.

For bank accounts they use a third party verification system where you log in to your bank or credit union and then you are set. Steward is a highly regulated financial technology company so there are more hoops to jump through than say the zero interest loan platform Kiva. When I verified my personal bank account it was very fast but we’ve seen their are more steps when you choose to invest/lend through a business bank account as the third party verification company is legally required to manually verify identities and business ownership. Please contact me if you run into any snags, we are all working to make this as smooth as possible!

Keep in mind we just went “live” so you are the first to hear! We have some larger backers coming in with larger amounts next week so it should jump quickly but we have a really short timeline so we need all the normal sized loans too as we really want to build a community of support!

The most powerful thing you could do to help is to make an investment/loan participation and then tell your community that you are in and they should consider doing the same. Other ways to help are to spread the word to like minded folks, follow our brand new facebook and instagram accounts, and send us notes of love and encouragement!

We really believe this will make a difference in our regional food system and having your support to build momentum brings us tons of energy!

Learn More and Loan Here
Here’s the story:

Long since the days of its bustling seafood canneries, Astoria has been a hub for our regional food system. A group of local food leaders have come together with a vision to re-establish Astoria as a consequential food hub on Oregon’s north coast. After several years of regional food system collaborations, plans are in place and a location has been identified to create a central source for local food commerce– Astoria Food Hub.

“We believe this building and business should be owned by the food producers, food businesses, and community we serve.” — Jared Gardner, local rancher and Astoria Food Hub co-founder

Once purchased and renovated, this mixed-use commercial space will bring a diverse collection of local farmers, fishers, and food producers under the same roof, providing the storage, processing, and business support they need to meet the growing demand for sustainable food products throughout the region.

Use of Funds

After months of diligence, the group is set to acquire a 27,000 sq ft historic building in downtown Astoria, situated in the famed Riverwalk District (near Buoy Brewing). This initial round of funding will be used to secure the building and start permitting right away. Shortly thereafter, a planned second phase will fund a series of tenant improvements, such as onsite cold and dry storage, processing and distribution facilities, commercial kitchen, retail storefront, office space, food education, and marketing and technical assistance. The goal is to be operational by fall 2021.

Community Impact

U.S. farmers and ranchers earn 14.6 cents on every dollar spent on food in the U.S., the remaining 85.4 cents cover off-farm costs, including processing, wholesaling, distribution, marketing, and retailing. Net farm income has dropped 50 percent from 2013-2016, and it has remained depressed ever since. Astoria Food Hub seeks to improve the producer’s share of food dollars.

Regional food systems have one of the highest Local Multiplier Effect of any economic sector, meaning every dollar spent by farmers, fishers, and ranchers ping pongs around the community 9 times or more.⁠ Astoria Food Hub is investing in the infrastructure that the region’s farmers, fishers, and food producers need to scale and strengthen the coastal community’s food system and its food security, keeping millions of dollars in the local economy each year.

A diverse community of local food producers and leaders have participated in several years of regional food system collaborations, identifying the need for cold storage, distribution, commercial kitchen, marketing, and technical assistance. Demand is increasing for place-based brands and high-quality products from both consumers and institutional buyers. Astoria Food Hub is rebuilding the gaps in the regional food system infrastructure lost to over 30 years of intense consolidation by global corporations. This project will reconnect consumers with foods grown, harvested, and produced in their own community, ultimately elevating producers who create quality products through sustainable, ethical, and equitable means.

Steward Comments

We know an amazing opportunity to make a difference when we see one–and this one was too good to pass up. Our team has been impressed by the vision and tenacity of this group to make Astoria Food Hub a reality. We believe wholeheartedly that this project will revolutionize the North Coast’s local food economy, meeting community food security needs and reinforcing the viability to scale regenerative & sustainable food production.

Help carry the Astoria Food Hub to the finish line, and co-create a more equitable and resilient regional foodshed!
How you can help:
1. Share this article.
2. Invite your friends to follow Astoria Food Hub on Instagram and Facebook!
3. Participate in the Astoria Food Hub loan, and receive monthly repayments with 7% interest here: www.astoriafoodhub.com
CLICK HERE for more about the Astoria Food Hub.