Steward, the online lending platform championing regenerative agriculture, has successfully finalized a substantial funding round for White Oak Pastures. The platform has sourced $1.19 million in just 18 days for the multi-generational farm, located in Bluffton, Georgia, which has been operating for 156 years. Despite its thriving revenue of over $20 million, the farm found challenges in obtaining traditional financing. Steward’s campaign, initiated on August 3, 2023, found overwhelming community support, swiftly meeting its financial goal.
Dan Miller, Founder & CEO at Steward, explained the challenges even a successful farm can have when trying to secure funding. “The goal of Steward is to engage consumers that care about regional food systems, are thoughtful about where their food is coming from, and would like to see more improvements in the food system. How can we aggregate their money and use it not just as a source of purchasing for these farms, but actually as a source of capital to finance these businesses? Because without capital, these farms can't purchase the land, equipment, and infrastructure they need. They're stuck in a system today where the consumer demand has shifted, people want what they're growing, but the availability of capital is effectively unchanged from what it would have been a few decades ago, and you're either a commodity or you're not, and you're out in the cold.”
Shifting Capital to High Impact Areas
Steward is committed to supporting and advancing regenerative agricultural practices that focus on enriching soils, enhancing biodiversity, and improving overall ecosystem health. By emphasizing sustainability, Steward seeks to foster agricultural methods that are in harmony with nature, while also maintaining the resilience and productivity of the land and local communities. The platform values human-scale operations, promoting more hands-on, mindful agricultural management that is tailored and appropriate for the specific needs of each community and location. Importantly, Steward aims to empower and uphold underserved groups, advocating for equitable systems and fostering a more balanced and inclusive approach to agriculture.
A Victory for the Community and Environment
White Oak Pastures has been a longstanding partner of Early County and Bluffton, working collaboratively on various community, educational, and tourism projects. The goal has consistently been to fortify employment and boost commerce in the region. This funding will allow White Oak Pastures to refine its value-added processing infrastructure and expand its direct-to-consumer business. Without Steward's involvement, there was a plausible risk of scaling back operations, potentially impacting employment and the local economy negatively.
The Story of White Oak Pastures
White Oak Pastures practices sustainable and ethical farming focusing on holistic land management and animal welfare. The farm’s offerings, ranging from pasture-raised meats to organic vegetables, are a testament to its commitment to biodiversity and soil health.
The convergence of community involvement and environmental responsibility is at the heart of Steward’s mission. This recent success is an affirmation of Steward’s dedication, having already impacted over 80 regenerative farms with a total of $20 million in financing.
Impact Beyond Finance
The current industry is marked by environmental concerns and economic shifts. Platforms like Steward have emerged as beacons of sustainable development. Steward’s mission is rooted in community values, ecological awareness, and economic sensibility, setting the foundation for a resilient and ecologically balanced agricultural model.
“Owners of regenerative farms are experiencing market demand, have passionate entrepreneurs, but have a challenge with financing. It’s a difficult job when there’s no resources. Steward helps give them what they need to thrive and get to the scale and efficiency to be viable as an enterprise,” Miller explains.
This partnership goes beyond a mere financial transaction, injecting the agricultural sector with renewed energy and a reinforced sense of purpose. The seamless blend of community engagement and sustainable practices initiates a new era in agricultural progress, one focused on restoring ecological balance and enriching societal wellness.
A Growing Awareness
The community’s robust response to this funding round is indicative of a rising awareness and appreciation for the role of regenerative agriculture. This collaboration between community intent and sustainable practices is writing a new chapter in the story of agricultural development, highlighting the potential for ecological restoration and societal enrichment.
According to the White Oak Pastures website, “Starting in 1995, we transitioned away from industrial agriculture techniques and began operating our farm as a living ecosystem. We now raise 10 species of humanely treated animals living in symbiotic relationships with each other. Our lands are holistically managed to become increasingly a living organic medium that is teeming with life.”