~ Southern Belle Hemp Co ~

Annie Sidner
5416 Amsterdam Place
Raleigh, NC 27606
email – click here

How did you hear about Slow Money NC? I don’t recall exactly how but it was a couple years ago; likely through Growing Small Farms listserv.

Tell us your story. Who are you? What is your business idea? Tell us your plan. Feel free to get into the details.: I own a small property & land management firm, specializing in holistic forest & land management but rental property management has become my bread + butter. My passion, however, is in biochemical nutrition and special needs advocacy. I used to teach high school students with autism and emotional disorders, but began to burn out so I stepped away from the classroom in order to further my own education in nutrition and special ed law. As it turns out, human nutrition and soil ecology go hand in hand, so my family helped me buy 8 acres in Apex, where I have spent the last 3 years rehabilitating a stripped suburban yard into medicinal/edible, biodiverse ecosystems. Building on the intention to turn my homestead farm into a social care farm lab, I’m ready to expand upon my success and initiate a plot on an incubator farm! Good Hope Farm has accepted my application to farm this 2019 season, so this new female-farmer hemp cooperative can plant a proof-of-concept in the middle of Cary suburbs. Good Hope heritage Farm will also serve as a perfect historical backdrop for on-farm dinners to educate and involve the community. Additionally, I will be hosting numerous workshops and am in discussion with the Town of Cary about a possibility of a U-pick your-own-Hemp events open to the public, as modeled by Cherry Hill Farm in Chapel Hill last year.

Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina.: I’d feel most comfortable answering if you hadn’t specified “briefly.” 😀 Sustainable Food Systems is my passion, and I’m excited to use this up-and-coming cooperative platform [that is, Southern Belle Hemp Cooperative!] from which to share so much good news to our community! Our Piedmont is both ecologically and financially rich and yet our food systems are massively disconnected. As a nutritionist & special needs advocate, I work to educate people on nutrient density and the importance of diet in pediatric development. As a soil ecologist, I work with local arborists, mushroom companies, and local farmers, to recapture and sequester carbon for our region’s future arability. As a homesteader, I boast “the most impressive vermicomposting and soil rehabilitation systems” most local farmers have ever seen [considering I’ve only been on this land for 3 years] and spend time daily to establish heirloom biodiversity in order to become a Rare Plant & pollinator haven for future generations. I could go on, but I hope this gives you a good sense of my passion!

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?: I have a financial projections page (with explanations) in my Business plan. [Contact Annie or Slow Money NC directly for this information.]

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?: I have been blessed to never have to borrow money, other than student loans to complete my degree online.

Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Who are they?: I choose to live cooperatively (by renting rooms in the large geodesic house on my land) and I would like to believe my community can testify to my credit. I’m actively involved in the local care-farming community and small farm movement; most who know me know I openly share my resources with others, and that it’s rare that I ask for investors. However, I’ve come to realize I would have a much greater effect this year if we launched this Cultivator farm plot by leveraging collective wealth instead of merely my own. Regardless, I’m still going to plant hemp at Good Hope Farm, I’ll just be spread thin!

Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before?: As previously mentioned, I own a small property & land management firm, specializing in holistic forest & land management but rental property management has become my bread + butter. About 15 years ago, at the young age of 19, I became a licensed contractor and started a home-renovation company specializing in “green” design. I was a bit too ahead of the curve and got a lot of push-back about being a young, female, “tree-hugging craftswoman” in a man’s industry. But I ran the business, and did the work, while being a part-time student for 3 years, before I returned to college full-time. Since then I’ve continued to hone many crafts/skills, (including farming cannabis on legal, medical cooperative farms in Northern California) and thus wear many hats day-to-day in my Property Management business: I am both agent & handiwoman, accountant & arborist. Managing 6 single-family estates across the Triangle (all owned by my immediate relatives) has given me the financial security and flexibility to spend the majority of my time developing educational/ecological projects, including my “Domestead,” our 8 acre homestead farm in Apex. I’m also on the Board for the Southeastern Social Care Farming Cooperative.

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?: I am looking for a loan to front the initial costs of clones, as well as a small budget to hire a marketing manager for our social media and retail, since the farmers within the cooperative would rather outsource marketing and focus on what we do best: growing![Contact Annie or Slow Money NC directly for this information.]

Are there other lenders involved in your project or business?: My mother supportingly offered a small personal loan, but I have not requested/sought any external funding until now.

What is your timeline for this project? Would you like it to start in a month? 6 months? A year?: The cooperative is already in the works, but the loan would be to fund the plot at Good Hope Farm, starting this month (March 2019). I have already put down the deposit and 1st Quarter rent for the plot, and have begun seedlings for over 50 heirloom varieties of pollinator-supporting companion plants. I need to buy/plant clones no later than end of April 2019, and therefore am hoping to secure a loan within the month.

Is there anything else we forgot to ask you?: Again, the business plan [and cover letter to the Board that oversees Good Hope Farm] is available to read in full. [Contact Annie or Slow Money NC directly for this information.]