Plainsong Farm is in transition!
When we started the farm in 2016, we were both a low-profit limited liability company and a non-profit ministry.
As part of our pre-launch phase we received (great! free!) consulting from Farm Commons, a legal advisory group specializing in small-scale sustainable agriculture. They recommended that since sale of farm produce is not tax-exempt, our Community Supported Agriculture farm should be a for-profit corporation. They also recommended that our faith and food ministry be initially undertaken with the sponsorship of an existing non-profit religious entity.
We followed their recommendations. Because the State of Michigan has a special business category for social entrepreneurs, we used the L3C designation to create a low-profit limited liability company. This holds the farm property and sells farm produce and other tangible goods. We also sought and created a relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. As a ministry of the diocese we can receive tax-exempt contributions which support our faith and food ministries.
After our first year it became clear that maintaining two entities was not the best use of our time. It made our our “Sow it Forward” share – which enables a CSA member to donate another share to a food pantry – more complicated. Lastly, it was hard to explain. Were we a for-profit farm? We never planned to make a profit, but the farm was a for-profit entity. That didn’t make sense.
God brought Plainsong Farm into being, and we wanted to honor God in the work. Rather than setting up a new 501(c)3 separate entity, we opted to come fully under the umbrella of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan. In March 2017 the Diocesan Council passed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing the farm to function as a ministry of the diocese. We’re still working out the details (moving bank accounts, etc.), but we expect all our operations to be held under this non-profit entity very soon.