This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Marilyn Simpson grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Torreon, N.M., where she learned all about farming from her parents who raised sheep and cows.
The youngest of eight children, Marilyn left the reservation, and her parents, to go to college in Arizona. That’s also where she met her husband Erik. After graduating, she and Erik moved back to Torreon to help Marilyn’s parents.
“We saw that my parents were getting older and they needed help with the animals,” said Marilyn, whose parents only speak Navajo. “We eventually took over their operation.”
For 14 years the couple managed her parents’ operation. Now, Marilyn, age 35 and Erik, 39, decided they wanted to start out on their own while still caring for her parents and living on the reservation.
The couple had heard about USDA’s Microloan program. The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay.
Marilyn and Erik came up with a plan on how much they wanted to borrow and how they planned to back the loan before contacting a Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan officer. After deciding that the Microloan was the best option, they contacted the Torrance County FSA.
Farm Loan Manager Allen Mackrain mailed a microloan application and then drove 2½ hours one way to their home on the reservation to meet with the couple, help answer questions, see the operation and close the loan.
“The Microloan is a great help because a lot of conventional lenders aren’t able to make these loans on the tribal trust lands,” said Mackrain. “A lot of tribal members have grazing and/or farming permits but no way to purchase animals or equipment to utilize the land. This gives them an opportunity to do that.”
The loan allowed the couple to purchase 25 bred cows and rent a bull. That helped expand their herd to 42 cows. They now also have five yearling heifers.
“We wanted something of our own but we also wanted to stay on the reservation and close to our culture,” said Marilyn. The couple has three children, ages 13, 10 and 7, who are learning the Navajo language from their grandparents. “We have a lot of fun and the kids are learning a lot about the animals and their culture. It’s good for them.”
To date, USDA has issued more than 4,900 microloans totaling $97 million. USDA is focused on increasing opportunities for farmers and ranchers and has made several modifications to farm loan programs, including making Microloans to beginning farmers and veterans exempt from direct loan term limits.