On October 8, Maine Harvest FCU accepted its first deposit, becoming Maine’s 55th credit union and the first focused on food entrepreneurs and farmers. The credit union created four new, full-time jobs in Unity after receiving its federal charter from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) in August. It is one of only two credit unions in the U.S. to be chartered in 2019.
“How appropriate that this credit union is located in a town named Unity,” NCUA Chairman Rodney E. Hood said. “Credit unions are organized through, and operate on, the principle of people working together to support one another.”
Maine Harvest FCU will offer specialized loans and mortgages to those working within Maine’s food economy. By employing a specialized underwriter with agricultural expertise, it will enable Maine Harvest to lend when traditional institutions often don’t. Maine Harvest FCU will serve over 1,000 members and become a primary financing source for over 100 small farms and food businesses – deploying $12 million in loans within the first six years.
“The days when the local farmer knew their local banker have been over for a while – but we plan to change that,” said Maine Harvest founder Scott Budde. “We will be able to meet farmers’ needs because we intimately understand the nuances of agricultural lending.”
Farmer and award-winning cheese maker Jessie Dowling of Fuzzy Udder Creamery in Whitefield will become one of its first members. “For years, I have cobbled loan products together and forced to build my business backwards, from the least profitable sector, just to qualify for financing,” Dowling said.
As the President of the Maine Cheese Guild, Dowling holds a Master’s Degree in Food Policy and has regional distribution for her products – yet she’s struggling to grow due to high interest loan payments. “I’ll be more profitable and able to scale production more efficiently once better financing options are available through Maine Harvest.”
The credit union’s goal is to close a $180M funding gap within Maine’s agricultural sector. Closing the gap will keep farmers on their land, strengthen Maine’s food economy and increase the availability of fresh, local food.
Maine’s political delegation attended this historic ribbon cutting and endorsed the need and creation for Maine Harvest.
Maine Governor Janet Mills cut the ribbon and noted, “the work of Maine Harvest will help keep legacy farmers on their land, ensure others scale and grow, and attract young farmers to our renowned eateries and craft breweries – all while improving Maine’s economy. Maine is an agricultural beacon for the nation and will continue to be, with the help of Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union.”
“Stronger local food systems are critical for improving environmental, community and personal health,” said founder Sam May. “Our credit union will be a key part of building that stronger system – one that can be replicated in other regions in America.”
The founders have worked on Wall Street and combine 60+ years of financial experience with deep roots in Maine. Co-founder Sam May was the senior wireless technology analyst for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Silicon Valley. Co-founder Scott Budde founded TIAA’s first department focused on impact investing strategies. Growing up in midcoast Maine in the 1950s, May spent considerable time on a dairy farm, while Budde graduated Bowdoin College in 1981. Budde and May took on this project because they believed it is a needed catalyst for growth within this sector. Starting in 2013, the duo raised $2.4M in philanthropic capital, completed years of market research and analysis and drafted a 1,000 page application to successfully gain a NCUA charter.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the granddaughter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in 1934 signed the Federal Credit Union Act, is a founding member and the credit union’s first depositor.
NewsCenter Maine coverage: New credit union in Unity will support local farmers.