Friday, August 7, 2009

Save An Indie Farm, Save An American Institution

By: Donna Maria

A few months ago, Indie Beauty Network member Kristie McNamara of Tilvee introduced me via email to Linette Crosby of Get Mint Farm. Kristie wanted me to know Linette not only because of my love for essential oils and aromatherapy, but also because of my love for independent and small family businesses. Turns out the Crosby “Get Mint Farm” in Michigan is in a bit of financial trouble and there is about a week left for us to join together and see if we can save their farm.


With this week’s news that one of the world’s greatest living photographers may lose all of her assets because she can’t pay back a multi-million dollar line of credit, this news is particularly hard hitting, especially since the Get Mint Farm represents not just a lifetime, but several generations of independent family business ownership. I asked Linette, who co-owns the farm with her brother, to provide me with some background on their farm and how we might be able to work together to help them save it. If you’d prefer to skip the details and get right down to how you can help, just scroll to the bottom of this post under “How You Can Help.”

dM: How did the farm find itself in this situation?

Linette: We did some refinancing through Greenstone Farm Credit Services in 2005. There were four loans: (1) a mortgage, (1) refinancing of operating equipment into a term loan (1) a new operating loan; and (4) an equipment credit line. We missed a large payment on one loan and received a 60-day extension. We were unable to come up with the money and they called in all four loans.

We began negotiating, and now, two years and $215,000 in interest, penalties, and attorney fees later, we are a little over a week away from losing the farm. We liquidated $115,000 worth of equipment and oil to put towards the loan already. We also secured a private lender for $345,000. As of today, we calculate that we must sell 77,009 1/8 ounce containers of mint oil (or raise $325,000) in order to save the farm. If we don’t do that, we will lose the farm.

dM: What steps have you taken to save the farm?

Linette: In addition to the above, we have put up 50 acres for sale and contacting all leads to sell as much oil as we can. We sold $115,000 worth of oil and equipment to put towards debt. With the current inventory, we can buy the farm back. Our attorney has worked against our bank for 20 years, as the bank is known for preying on land rich farmers. Their actions may be illegal (I’m sure they are immoral), but we can’t do much about it.

We have gone to our state capitol and spoken with two state Senators who say they support us, but are unwilling to put it in writing. We have spoken on the steps of the Capitol during a demonstration, which may have not helped. Senate Bill 1306 was introduced to put a moratorium on foreclosures in Michigan, it sat on the desk of another State Senator.

We also secured a private individual to assist us with our November 1, 2008 deadline and sold 27,000 drams nationwide. We are now contacting individuals and businesses interested in wholesale distributorships.

dM: What will happen if you don’t raise the money needed by next week?

Linette: The house, equipment, all out buildings, and land will be auctioned off and taken over by the bank. Our attorneys suggested we sell the farm land, but in this market, I don’t feel we will be able to even clear the debt.

dM: How is your local community assisting you?

Linette: Our state Rep, County Commissioner, Arts Council, hopefully Chamber are all writing letters to the judge.

We have many stories of people such as, Dottie, from a local little community who volunteered to pick up drams to sell at her local bazaar.

Or, the Lott Family who bring people out to the farm and are absolutely sold on the oil. They have donated $200 to help us put a radio add out on World Wide Christian Radio.

How about Kristie McNamara who called you? She has blessed us. There are many stories and I fell so blessed in probably the most traumatic times in my life.

My family, friends, and absolute strangers want to help…this always brings tears to my eyes. We have had many volunteers help in shipping, etc to get our product out the door. Our local businesses have come forward especially Postal Connections and Jet Speed Printing.

The emotional pain around foreclosure is amazing and many today are facing it. Annually, our town of St. Johns hosts the annual Mint Festival. There are very few mint farmers left in this community and we are the only farm to offer tours because of our historic significance.

Another example: The Greenfield Village Herb Society invited us to be a vendor at their farmer’s market at Henry Ford Museum…there, we met the publishers of edibleWow magazine who highlighted our farm in this springs publication…the research manager from Henry Ford Research read the article and ordered 300 drams of peppermint oil for their women’s retreat…they contacted me after the retreat and said they were testing our oil for headaches because their physician from Greece orders the oil from Germany!

Customers Kelly and Brian forwarded our email to a friend who was a distributor for Pure Herbs, Ltd. Kelly contacted Pure Herbs, Ltd to ask them to reach out in any way…the company called us and listened to our story…we have now secured a business relationship with them and closed our first business sale with them today for a large quantity oil! We the People…!!!

dM: What can my readers do to help you save your farm?

Linette: People can help by purchasing a dram, two drams, and product. We believe they will love it once they try it. Many know the benefits and some don’t. Our mission is to also educate people about it medicinal properties and healing capabilities.

Why I’m Helping Out

You all know how I feel about debt. Having said that, my business is very small and has never needed to take on debt in order to grow at the rate I want to to grow. In some instances, especially where a family farm is concerned, I feel like taking on debt is the only way to grow, especially in a society that does not have many public resources available to support family farms like the Crosby Get Mint Farm which produce a relatively small amount of a niche product. As a result, I feel strongly that making a contribution to the Crosby Get Mint Farm is the right thing to do.

I also find it refreshing that the Crosby’s are not just holding their hands out. They are working hard to save their farm as they also keep the business going. One look at Linette’s Twitter updates and you can see that they are not just sitting around hoping someone will show up with $325,000.

The Crosby family has been in the mint distilling business since 1912. The distillery is on their property. It is a way of life, a legacy, and heritage. Linette and her brother, Jim, were raised in the house. If it is sold, so much more than a business will be lost. An American legacy will disappear and I’d like not to see that happen.

How You Can Help

I would like to do my share to help save the Crosby Get Mint Farm. I just purchased 5 of the 117,000 drams needed to save the farm. Here’s the link where you can make your purchase.

I Tweeted this blog post and would very much appreciate it if you would too, even if you don’t buy any oil. Just cut and paste this into the Twitter status space:

I just invested $5 (or whatever) to save an independent US-based family farm. Join me and save an American institution:

Question: What do you think? Can we work together to help save a family farm!

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