What's the fastest way to get heirloom tomatoes growing? For all of you thinking about compost, seaweed nutrients and other farming esoterica, add this to your list: credit cards.
This last tip comes from my friend Jim, who has an organic farm in Pennsylvania.
At the farmers' market in D.C. this weekend, I was chatting with Jim about, you know, farmer things — the weather, when to put my onions in the ground, the chefs in town, finances.
Actually, this last topic came up because I told him another farmer I know on the West Coast — who is also named Jim — had tapped $240,000 from a $250,000 credit line. It was only late February, two weeks before his early season strawberry sales started kicking in.
So, Jim tells me, he solves that problem with credit cards.
Each year he carefully accepts those offers that fly into his mailbox for zero percentage balance transfers and bonus points and cash back on purchases.
He took on $40,000 in credit card debt this way last year, transferring balances from his working capital credit line that charges more than 9 percent interest. He even tapped out one card and stuck the money into a CD and made several hundred dollars.
In the fall, he's usually cash rich, so pays down the credit cards and then cancels them. But like new seed packets, the credit card offers roll in through the winter in time for his spring spending.
Credit cards are a common way of financing start-ups; entrepreneurs use them all the time. They key is to pay all minimum balances due on time. So you need to stay on top of your credit card statements if you're going to play this game.
I think I'll pass this tip on to Jim on the West Coast, but I'm not sure what it will do to his $240,000 debt. Maybe allow him to take on $40,000 more.
- Samuel Fromartz