Shakori center now owns its farm

Dec. 12, 2013 @ 05:09 PM

The Shakori Hills Community Arts Center now owns the Chatham County land where the organization presents the annual fall and spring festivals of music and dance. Organizers say ownership will allow the center to continue improving the site and offer more arts and cultural opportunities for the community.
Members of the organization closed on the property earlier this week, paying $695,000 for the 73-acre site at 1439 Henderson Tanyard Road and the 1900-era house that Shakori Hills Community Arts Center uses as its headquarters. Last year, the organization reached its goal of raising $75,000 for a down payment on the site.
Shakori Hills raised the money for the property through a community financing mechanism, said Carol Peppe Hewitt, author of “Financing Our Foodshed” and an advocate of locally based financing. Hewitt, a longtime volunteer for the festival, helped spearhead the effort. Shakori formed an entity, Shakori Hills Finance LLC, to act as the source for the loan. A number of private investors, at a minimum of $10,000, invested in that entity and will begin receiving principal plus 5 percent over 10 years.
Shakori formed the entity in partnership with Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Trumansburg, N.Y., Hewitt said. Finger Lakes is the parent non-profit group that produces annual GrassRoots music and dance festivals in Pittsboro, Trumansburg and Miami, Fla.
The Shakori Hills Community Arts Center previously rented the land. Ownership will allow the organization to expand educational programming, and continue improving the infrastructure. “It is a cultural arts center. There could be music workshops, dance workshops,” Hewitt said. She emphasized that the farm will not just be a festival site, but “an arts center that serves the community throughout the year.”
Shakori Hills is calling the financing mechanism a “community mortgage,” because the money comes from local investors and stays with them. Hewitt would like to see more such financing. “We can, as a community, finance projects that otherwise might struggle to find financing,” she said.
The local Shakori Hills organization presents the fall and spring Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, and the Hoppin’ John Fiddlers Convention. Since the annual music and dance festival began in 2003, Shakori has added several stages, a barn area for coffee and concessions, campground areas, solar panels and other infrastructure.