|Bank First GREEN Bank|
|Client King Grove Organic Farm|
|Location Florida, USA|
King Grove, in central Florida, began as a pioneer era family farm that has continually produced citrus fruit since 1874. As an alternative to the monoculture of residential housing development that has already consumed much of the region’s green space, King Grove has evolved into a multi-crop organic farm that includes oranges, blueberries, peaches and timber. As a result, a link to the area’s agricultural and cultural heritage has been preserved.
‘First GREEN Bank has allowed us to continue our family tradition of growing food with respect for the natural world and stewardship of the land.’
A detailed land management plan guides stewardship and conservation of the land not under active agriculture; providing habitat for native plant and animal species. The undeveloped land also provides green space and allows rainfall to recharge the fresh water aquifer.
With a significant investment in blueberries (an emerging crop in Central Florida), King Grove is contributing to the viability of the local food movement and sustainable agriculture in general as an alternative to urban sprawl. The finance required to invest in high-tech irrigation, plant production, and harvesting systems was unavailable from conventional sources; including government subsidised agricultural financing intended for small and family farms.
First GREEN Bank considers organic, sustainable agriculture and efficient local food production to be aligned with its mission. According to the farm’s fourth generation owners, ‘First GREEN Bank has allowed us to continue our family tradition of growing food with respect for the natural world and stewardship of the land.’
The bank is the first values-based financial institution on the east coast of the United States and one of only a few in the country. First GREEN bank received the last charter granted in the State of Florida on December 22, 2008. As a result of the very adverse economic conditions in Florida, the high number of community bank failures and without any new bank charters, small business lending has virtually ceased. Additionally, the social and political environment in Central Florida is very archaic and not amenable to a values-based proposition. These issues and others have essentially ‘shut out’ most borrowers or potential borrowers. The bank has intentionally embarked on a comprehensive lending programme based upon one basic tenet for the values based proposition of First GREEN Bank as espoused by founder, Ken LaRoe which is to do the right thing for the community. Unhindered by a portfolio of toxic assets the bank is able to extend credit and has made every effort to lend to credit-worthy borrowers even if creative underwriting was necessary.
While operating completely within the constraints of the United States regulatory environment, First GREEN Bank has established numerous programmes and goals to assist values based businesses and environmental endeavors. One such programme is a solar PV loan which provides 100% financing and a fixed low rate. Virtually every aspect of operating the bank either has been analysed or is going to be analysed to maximize the values based proposition as articulated by the bank’s mission statement.