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Farm turns to crowdfunding

July 26, 2013  By The Canadian Press

Jul. 26, 2013, Tyron, PEI – Crippled by mounting financial debt, father and son duo David and Brian Best had few options left to save the potato farm their family has operated in Tryon, P.E.I., since the early 1930s.

It was a customer who dropped in to Best Acre Farms to buy seed potatoes that sparked the family’s current bid to save their livelihood – crowdfunding.

“I told him I was pulling strings to find out how I can source money, and he said, ‘Well, you might try crowdfunding’,” said Brian Best.

Best did just that, and without a crop in the ground, he has dedicated much of his time to the online campaign, which aims to raise $200,000 by Aug. 1. As of July 25, the campaign on has generated around $8,000.

“The people that are grasping it … know how important a family farm is to producing food,” he said.

Websites like are drawing people from across Canada to crowdfunding, and the types of campaigns they fund vary widely. Whether it’s building a school in Africa or trying to securing the release of an alleged video that appears to show Toronto’s mayor smoking crack cocaine, the possibilities are endless.

Regardless of the cause, the components of a successful crowdfunder often remain the same, said Sandeep Pillai, a graduate student at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who has studied crowdfunding.

“That ability to engage people … is very critical in a crowdfunding campaign. Let it be a potato farm, let it be a solar watch, let it be a coffee down the street, whatever it is,” said Pillai. “When a crowdfunding campaign does not become successful, it’s because you were not able to engage the crowd.”

Pillai said the idea of crowdfunding isn’t new, but its accessibility is. “It’s a sign of the times,” he said. “There’s a venue to do it, before there was not.”

Pillai added that successful crowdfunding campaigns have a goal and an end result that the potential contributor can easily grasp.

“It is absolutely critical that when you set up a campaign, you define the goal,” said Pillai. “The crowd has to understand what the product is, and you must ask, ‘Is this something that you can get people passionate about?'”

David Best is hoping enough people share his passion for potatoes. He says now that a mortgage sale that was scheduled for earlier this month has been put off, the family is focused on paying down enough debt to plant a crop next year.

“If I lost the farm, I would have worked a lifetime for nothing more than something to wear and something to eat. That’s all I would take with me. That’s devastation with a capital D,” said the 73-year-old man, who has worked on the farm his entire life.

“We’re hoping (the crowdfunding campaign) will help get things lined up for another year, but time will tell.”

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