FarmStart Program Supports Startup Businesses

Farm Credit’s FarmStart is a unique program that invests working capital of up to $75,000 in northeast agricultural, fishing and forest products ventures showing promise of success. Since the first investment approved in August 2006, FarmStart has invested more than $11.3 million with over 250 agricultural and fishing entrepreneurs throughout the Northeast, including Maine.

Steven Christianson, owner of Christianson Farm, LLC, in Readfield, Maine, along with his wife, Caroline and their son, Easten, with their FarmStart advisor Kathryn Bisson, from Farm Credit East’s Auburn, Maine, office. (Courtesy Photo)

“The future of Northeast agriculture, commercial fishing and forest products industries is dependent on new entrants,” said Bill Lipinski, Farm Credit East CEO. “That is why we initiated this innovative program more than a decade ago to meet the demands for capital and financial management skills that entrepreneurs need to get started in various agriculture sectors.”

One of those recent investments was with Steven Christianson, owner of Christianson Farm, LLC in Readfield, Maine. Christianson Farms is a diversified business growing a mix of vegetables for its farm stand, while also raising beef and hogs that are sold retail at the farm stand and direct to local customers. Steven purchased his first two cows in 2009, and today has more than 60 animals and harvests about 300 acres of corn, hay and vegetable crops.

Steven turned to FarmStart after being denied commercial financing because he only had two years of crop and tax records. “Then I learned about FarmStart and they were willing to work with me,” he said. “My FarmStart advisor understands my goals and how my operation works. It’s been a very good relationship.”

His FarmStart advisor, Kathryn Bisson, explained, “As a FarmStart advisor, I have a greater advisory role with FarmStart customers when compared with traditional lending relationships. I assist in the preparation of business plans, the tracking and follow up of management goals and objectives, while also helping to connect customers with other Farm Credit East resources.” 

“It is rewarding to be able to work with beginning farmers through the early stages of their business, and see how their hard work pays off over the next few years,” Kathryn continued.

“The FarmStart program is unique in its focus working with young and beginning entrepreneurs to establish successful businesses,” said Matt Senter, Farm Credit East senior vice president based in the Auburn, Maine office. “The combination of working capital and the valuable insight provided by FarmStart advisors like Kathryn Bisson provides startup businesses with much improved odds of long term success. In a business like Steven’s, his strong farm management and marketing skills are complemented by the expertise of FarmStart staff and the flexibility of repayment terms.”

FarmStart, LLP is a joint initiative of Farm Credit East, Yankee Farm Credit and CoBank to fulfill Farm Credit’s long-term commitment to support a vibrant, entrepreneurial northeast agricultural community. The program invests working capital of up to $75,000 to help beginning northeast farm, forest products and commercial fishing businesses and cooperatives become operational.

Each FarmStart participant completes a business plan and monthly cash flow to serve as a roadmap for their startup business. A FarmStart advisor works with each participant to help the new business stay on track toward achieving their business objectives. Additionally, Farm Credit East’s Knowledge Exchange program offers resources for these startup producers via hot-topic webinars and industry reports and analysis.

For more information on FarmStart please visit