Rancher starts crowdfunding site for ag producers

It all started when a friend was having difficulties getting a loan for an irrigation system.

Jesse Lasater, who raises sheep near Bayfield with his wife, Veronica, said he knew a fellow Farm Bureau member who couldn't get a traditional loan. The usual problem for farmers and ranchers to get funding is a lack of equity and collateral, and high debt-to-income ratios, he explained.

So Lasater started kicking around an idea. If artists and filmmakers could use crowdfunding, then why not farmers?

In honor of National Ag Day on March 25, he unveiled www.harvestfunders.com.

Crowdfunding seeks small donations from regular folks - $10, $20, $100 or more - to fund specific projects they can research on various crowdfunding sites. Lasater said he had a cousin who was a finalist on the TV reality show "The Voice" who wanted to make an album with his singing partner. They went on kickstarter.com and asked for $30,000 to make their album, and they got more.

So that got Lasater to thinking.

"Why not have it be for a great cause, but also something that will impact everyone's life?" he said. The maximum donation the site can accept under Paypal guidelines is $2,000.

While he sees this helping his peers pay for their irrigation projects, he said it also could be used to help a 4-H or FFA kid get a couple hundred bucks to buy a starter pig or calf, for example.

The only requirements are that applicants be 13 or older and have a bank and Paypal account.

While Lasater would like to highlight local farmers, he hopes harvestfunders could grow to national or even international scope, helping farmers with a variety of issues.

Lasater, a former ski filmmaker, created youtube videos about the project, as well, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9sgOwebChQ

He can be reached at harvestfunders@gmail.com.