Going back to the land isn't necessarily a recipe for the simple life, as many local farmers discover. Some new trends, like the farm-to-table movement, have helped them. "It's creating a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities," said attorney Andrew Sherman, a partner in Jones Day in Washington, D.C., who advises businesses of all sizes. But at the same time, farmers who have relied heavily on the CSA model must now compete for customers with well-financed Internet middlemen.
Farmigo, a digital platform in Brooklyn, New York, that has raised $10 million in venture capital, enables customers in San Francisco and New York to pick up farm-grown organic produce delivered to their communities. Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Good Eggs, backed by $31.5 million in venture capital, has made inroads in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Brooklyn. It allows customers to order produce that is delivered directly to their homes.
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"Farmers are experiencing challenges filling their shares or have been for the past four years," said Caylor Roling, project coordinator of the Portland Area CSA Coalition in Oregon. "I definitely hear from the farmers that they are not meeting their membership goals for the year."
One reason the financial sector is investing in farming is the rising value of farmland, according to a 2014 report by the Oakland Institute, a think tank in Oakland, California. As farmers retire, investors are swooping in to scoop up the land. "Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before," the report says. "[A] new generation of institutional investors—including hedge funds, private equity, pension funds and university endowments—is eager to capitalize on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class."