Community financing for sustainable food systems
The case of FarmWorks Investment Co-operative
Since 2011, FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited (FarmWorks) has been boosting Nova Scotia’s farm and food economy through small loans to local food businesses. The fund relies on community investments and relationship-based lending, markers of the provincial government’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program. FarmWorks was motivated by decreasing food production, dwindling agricultural employment and the resulting decline of rural communities across the province. These factors were compounded by systemic changes including the increased financialization of the agri-food sector. As a social economy organization, FarmWorks seeks to remedy the shortcomings of the dominant food system by prioritizing the social and ecological regeneration of local communities. It simultaneously works with existing market structures while challenging mainstream practices and developing an alternative model. Through a document review, our paper assesses the extent to which FarmWorks has been successful in its efforts “to increase the viability and sustainability of agriculture and the security of a healthy food supply.” Specifically, we examine economic outcomes (employment, revenue increase, business expansion) as well as social impact of FarmWorks loans. We situate our analysis in literature on social economy, financialization, and sustainable food systems.