~ Dinner Bell Farm ~

John & Stephanie Campbell
7565 Snow Camp Rd
Snow Camp, NC  27349
email address

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How did you hear about Slow Money NC?
We are part of CFSA. We are friends with the farming community and we see Slow Money representatives at farming events.

Tell us your story. Who are you? What is your business idea? Tell us your plan. Feel free to get into the details.
Our business is providing fresh, local, nutrient dense vegetables to people who want the health, community and environmental benefits they bring. We raise pork and eggs from animals raised on pasture with animal welfare
approved principles.

Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina.
We are committed to the soil. More microorganisms each year in the soil. We practice a No-Till system. As such, we keep the soil in the 1.50 acre market garden covered with a viable crop, or a cover crop, or compost/tarp system.

We feed the microorganisms by keeping roots in the soil whenever possible and never using any petrochemicals for fertilizer or herbicide. We are not certified organic. We use OMRI approved products where appropriate.
We use compost we buy to build soil structure and we are inthe process of making our own compost with the Johnson-Su Bioreactor method.

We want to participate in a food structure that LAUGHS.
Local, Affordable, Uncomplicated, Good, Healthy, Seasonal. We eat this way. Our friends (who are also our customers) eat this way. We find a solace in the patterns and pace of the market garden. It envelopes our whole life.

What will your sales be? What do you anticipate your profits/your margins will look like? How will you make the money to pay this loan back?:

Gross sales this year. At our current pace:
CSA. 25 members at $21 per week for 30 weeks. $15,750
Restaurant sales $400 per week for 40 weeks. $16,000
Farmer’s Market sales $150 wk for 25 weeks. $3,750.
This is gross sales on just vegetable production.

The cost for everything including seeds, repairs, insurance, gasoline, taxes, utilities, fertilizer, labor, marketing, etc. is also $35,000.
We make a profit on pasture raised pork of $5,100.

Egg production breaks even. But the chickens provide nutrients for the pasture and many clients demand free range chicken eggs at $5.00 a dozen. This is not sustainable, so we have plans for more production and sales in the fall and winter.

The proposed high tunnels will allow us to produce more in the Fall and Winter seasons. Fresh greens are at a premium at those times of the year and command the best price. A bed of lettuce produces a minimum of 25 pounds per harvest. Every 6 weeks the bed is harvested and replanted the same day. (A minimum of three harvests in the Fall/Winter season) . There are seven beds in each tunnel. 25 pounds X $8 per pound X 3 harvests X 7 beds = $4,200 gross from one tunnel next fall.
This is the minimum that a tunnel can do. The yield per bed in the right conditions can be 40 pounds of lettuce. The turnover can be as short as 4 weeks in the spring and fall which gives another turnover to the bed.

Alternatively, spinach can be grown. Baby spinach is $10 a pound.
The demand for fresh local lettuce and greens like spinach and kale mix is insatiable. The restaurants and CSA clients want some EVERY week. We have a processing hub set up at this time to process a lot of lettuce and greens. We have a “bubbler” to clean large quantities and a drying table so the greens will last longer. We have the capacity to offer a quality product week after week.

Have you borrowed money before? How much did you borrow? From where? How long was the term? Is there a balance still due on that loan?
We have borrowed money in our previous careers. We owned six residential rental properties and our primary home, all with a mortgage. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, John lost his income as a mortgage loan officer and the rents went down because everyone else lost their source of income. At the same insurance went up and the interest rates went up and the taxes stayed up because the real estate was valued at 2006 prices. We made all payments on time for all properties and weathered the crisis. This was due to a conservative borrowing schedule, some cash reserves, and some personal hard work to keep the properties filled with paying tenants and repaired.
When we moved to NC in 2015, we sold the properties and paid cash for the farm. We have two properties in Naples now with property managers and the rents cover the costs. When the time is right, we will sell those properties as well. At one point we owed $750,000 on $1,500,000 worth of property. The value at the time we sold and moved was about $1,250,000. We have not borrowed any money as part of our farm enterprise. We have paid for the start up of our farm from savings. We have depleted the easily liquidated savings at this time.

Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Who are they?
I do not have any local person who can vouch for our credit worthiness. I would point to a credit report as a indicator, an one would find an unblemished record there.

Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before?
John was a mortgage loan officer for 30 years. Sometimes he worked for a bank or a mortgage company and sometimes he owned his own business. In all cases he worked on commission basis and paid expenses from proceeds. John bought and managed a series of rental properties for 30 years.

Stephanie was the founder and director of a not for profit community center in Naples, FL for 12 years, serving the lower income families. She managed a 5 acre site with thousands of square feet under air conditioning and hundreds of people every week. She raised and oversaw an annual budget of over $1Million.

How much money do you need to borrow to make your project work? How long do you think you would need to pay that back?
[please discuss this directly with John or Carol]

Are there other lenders involved in your project or business?
No, there are no other lenders.

What is your timeline for this project? Would you like it to start in a month? 6 months? A year?
I would like to start in April. I can order the tunnel parts and have it shipped. I can hire a local man to help me build it on nights and weekends.
I have built two tunnels before, so I know the drill. It is
simple enough. It just takes some concentrated time and
effort to put each piece in place.

Is there anything else we forgot to ask you?
We started our farm from scratch in March 2016. We created infrastructure which includes a two room cooler, a processing hub, a propagation greenhouse, complete irrigation system, a system for No-Till bed preparation, a system for crop rotation and succession planting, a system of beneficial plants to attract beneficial insects and birds, a commitment to no petrochemical treatments, and a market of chefs and CSA members who count on use for fresh nutrient dense vegetables week after week. Oh, and a deer fence. We have this thing going. There is so much more I could share one on one if someone had an interest.  Thanks.

More photos here!

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