Old West Federal’s Farm to Table Loan Meets Unique Need in Rural Oregon Community


Buying fresh meat in bulk from local producers is a great way to feed a family and support the community, but there’s one problem: it can be expensive. Purchasing and processing the meat alone comes with a high price, not to mention the cost of buying a freezer to store it in all year long.

Old West Federal Credit Union saw a need to help families and members in its rural Northeast Oregon community stock up on local meat, so they created the Farm to Table Fresh Meat Loan.

Through the innovative loan program, applicants are able to borrow up to $4,000 to stock their freezers with locally raised chicken, beef, pork, fish, and more. And if they don’t have a freezer to store it in, Old West  finances that, too, interest free with no money down. It’s a great example of how credit unions are meeting the needs of consumers in their communities.

“Buying beef in bulk is out of reach for most people … it’s too expensive,” said Bob Kavanaugh, VP of Business Development and Member Experience at Old West. “With the Farm to Table Loan it makes filling a freezer much more cost effective, and at zero percent interest, it makes it even better.”

Once word about the new loan made its way around the community, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and Old West Federal decided to take things up a notch. The credit union came up with a great idea — a “Get a Freezer, Give a Freezer Full of Beef” raffle. Featured on social media, it reached nearly 10,000 people, creating quite the buzz. The credit union purchased two brand-new 10-cubic-foot freezers — one to raffle off to a lucky community member, and one to fill with fresh meat and donate to a charity of the winner’s choice.

When local rancher and producer, Charlie Rolfe, heard about it, he knew he had to be involved. He reached out to the credit union and generously offered to provide fresh beef to fill the second freezer — free of charge.

“It’s important that we take care of our local folks, and I’m blessed to help in any way I can.”
— Charlie Rolfe, Local Rancher & Producer

Then, a local butcher shop stepped in, pledging to prioritize the order and cover 50% of the processing cost. In just one week, the meat was cut, inspected, wrapped, and ready to be packed into the freezer.

To support the new loan product, the Northwest Credit Union Foundation provided Old West with a small grant, to help cover the credit union’s loan underwriting costs, keeping the product affordable for rural residents.

“When we took a moment and reflected on how this project was unfolding so beautifully, we were humbled by all the people, businesses, and the Foundation who gave so much to help our little part of Northeast Oregon … truly humbling,” said Kavanaugh.

More than 280 people entered the drawing, each naming a local charity near and dear to their heart that could use some support.

A few weeks later, Old West teamed up with Union County Sheriff, Cody Bowen, to draw the winning entry in a video on Facebook. Bowen reached into a chicken feeder full of paper slips and read the winner’s name aloud: Brett Baxter, a high school principal from La Grande, Oregon. Baxter chose the Union Food Bank as his charity of choice. Last week, the freezer packed with meat was delivered to the food bank. The credit union captured the moment in a fun video, viewable here.

“I never win anything!” said Baxter. “It’s exciting for me to be able to pick a local food bank in my town! Thank you to Old West and Ken (Old West President and CEO) for coming up with the idea and making it possible for someone who lives in a small town to pick a local charity to give the freezer and meat to!”

The Union Food Bank was honored to be selected and said it’s extremely grateful for the fresh meat — something that has been especially hard to come by amid the pandemic.

“Our little food bank does a lot of good things for our small town! Since COVID hit, many families have had a hard time getting good beef for their families; we’ve had a little hamburger that doesn’t go very far …  but not really any good beef,” said Colleen Miller, Union Food Bank Director. “Thank you to Brett Baxter for thinking of us, Charlie Rolfe for donating the beef, the butcher shops, and Old West for thinking to do this and giving so much to our town.”

Supporting its rural communities with valuable financial services is a top priority for Old West, and it’s something the credit union, as well as its staff, takes great pride in.

“It’s an honor to serve at a local credit union that truly cares about our little community,” said Cheryl Hargrove, Manager of Old West’s Union branch. “Our food bank is very important to so many people who live in Union, and now we can help a lot of families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

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Posted in Asset Building.