F&M Bank – Commitment to Farming and Community
F&M Bank, a Shenandoah Valley leader in agricultural and rural financing, has added another community partnership to its charitable portfolio. The community bank, established in a Timberville schoolhouse in 1908, is a VIP Sponsor of Blue Ridge Sprouts Family Food Festival.
“We were immediately enthralled and really interested in the food festival,” says Holly Thorne, Senior Vice President and Marketing Director of F&M Bank. “The event ties in with everything F&M believes in – local community, supporting Valley agriculture, family-friendly. And it supports an excellent cause that ties in with our mission and values. It just made sense.”
Blue Ridge Sprouts takes place Saturday, November 6, at West Oaks Farm & Market, a 10th generation family farm in Winchester. This day-long, educational celebration showcases the Valley’s rich agricultural history, the locally sourced “real” food movement, and the area’s vibrant way of life. Partnering with the Community Foundation Northern Shenandoah Valley, Sprouts is also raising funds for charities involved with food insecurity and agricultural sustainability.
F&M’s Agricultural Banking “Roots”
As the initials signify, F&M was established by farmers and merchants needing financial services in the Shenandoah Valley. The institution is the true definition of a community bank. Locally owned and operated, lending decisions are made by those who understand the needs of area families, businesses, and farmers. F&M employees often live in the communities they serve and the bank is actively involved in many neighborhood charity efforts. F&M branches are located throughout the I-81 corridor, from Winchester to Waynesboro, and growing.
“A huge thank you to F&M Bank for being our first Community Sponsor for Blue Ridge Sprouts,” says Nancy Craun, festival founder. “One reason F&M is a good match for us is their investment in the entire Shenandoah Valley economy. Taste of Blue Ridge and Va Kids Trail are also invested in our wonderful Valley, focusing on our agricultural and culinary small businesses. Welcome on board F&M. We look forward to many years of working together!”
Commitment to Community
F&M Bank of the Shenandoah Valley actively gives back to the community by earmarking over $300,000 annually for sponsorships and civic initiatives. Most recently, the bank stepped up and contributed over $100,000 to business disaster relief task forces developed in response to Covid-19.
Organizations with a focus on food insecurity that benefit from F&M, through both funding and volunteer power, include Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Hope Distributed, Salvation Army, and Pork for the Pantry. This last initiative connects donated pork from local producers to area homeless shelters.
“This is one of the things I love about this job and my bank,” says Ms. Thorne. “F&M contributes funds to much-needed local causes and you can see the impact.”
Commitment to Farming
For over a century, F&M has played an important role in Virginia’s “breadbasket” – the farms of the Shenandoah Valley. Agricultural lending specialists at the bank see urban sprawl, and its impact on driving up land prices, as top challenges for today’s Valley farmers. Others include global trade policies on food security, commodity supply and demand, and new government mandates/regulations.
Seasoned farmers face the challenges of production costs, expanding too fast, and training the next generation, says Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer Paul Eberly. As for newer farmers, he advises on renting vs buying acreage and encourages making the right contacts within the state’s wealth of agricultural agencies and resources.
The Opportunities in Valley Agriculture
The ag lenders also see opportunities in Valley farming. With close proximity to the Greater Washington and Richmond areas (depending on where you are on the I-81 corridor), farmers can tap into markets that strongly support locally sourced food. Says Bobby Williams, Senior Vice President, Agricultural & Rural Programs Leader, “We’ve definitely seen an increase in niche marketing and specialty outfits in the Valley.” And technology and automation have helped farmers achieve greater efficiency.
Over the past year, individuals and families became much more aware of where their food comes from and turned to locally sourced community stores, CSA’s, and farmers’ markets. It is important for farmers to continue to tell their stories, advise F&M professionals.
“Often farmers are not very vocal, they’re humble people going about their day. There is so much opportunity to show where locally sourced food starts, how the crops and animals are very much loved, and how our food gets to our table,” says Ms. Thorne. “It’s a story that’s often overlooked.”
Telling the Farmer’s Story
Telling the farmer’s story is a major focus for Blue Ridge Sprouts – Nourish, Savor, Learn on November 6, 2021 at West Oaks Farm & Market. Spend a fun-filled day learning about the Valley’s locally sourced food chain and the area’s active, well-balanced lifestyle. Sponsorships and exhibit spaces are now available. Tickets to the festival go on sale in August. Join our newsletter and keep up with Blue Ridge Sprouts.