By: Maia Hirschbein
There are people and families behind every product that we buy. As the local food movement grows in popularity and strength, so has the demand for a way to connect to the people and communities behind products that come from other parts of the world.
The Hoop Fund, a crowd-funding platform that enables people "to connect with and support small producers of great products," is innovating a new way to connect consumers to where and whom our products come from. Through key partnerships with brands like Berkeley-based Lotus Foods and the communities supplying their rice, consumers can now fund loans directly to farmers around the world.
Lotus Foods sources their Organic Mekong Flower Rice from the Damrei Romeal Organic Producer Federation, a Cambodian rice farming cooperative made up of 267 households cultivating on about 214 hectares (529 acres). The cooperative is organized to improve small farmers’ livelihoods through increased and diversified farm production, improved social cooperation and improved access to markets. The members apply the principles of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to enhance their yields and have stopped using chemical fertilizer and pesticide to cultivate their rice.
While farming communities like Damrei Romeal can fetch a higher profit from certifying their products organic, the costs and process to certify are arduous. Farmers are expected to pay certification costs before being paid for their product, and this often prevents organically grown rice from getting the appropriate label. A small loan to cover certification costs can make it possible for hundreds of families to receive higher margins on their product.
Thanks to Damrei Romeal and Lotus Foods’ partnership with the Hoop, consumers can now go online and fund a small $25 loan at 0% to contribute to the $2,500 being requested by the cooperative.
This innovative model of connecting consumers to the producers behind products they believe in has immense potential to both grow producer businesses while creating more conscious and connected consumers. Visit www.hoopfund.com for more information.