In southwestern Wisconsin’s Lafayette County, agriculture accounts for 54% of the jobs in the county, according to the Lafayette County Economic Development department. The county has 13 dairy and specialty cheese production plants; agriculture manufacturing and crop production also are prevalent.
To meet the needs of the community’s agriculture workers and their families as well as help local farmers and businesses retain employees, Southwest Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP) partnered with Cinnaire Solutions, the nonprofit development affiliate of Cinnaire, to develop The Meadows, a 32-unit workforce project in Darlington.
“There’s no higher honor than serving people, and it’s particularly an honor to serve people who are putting food on our table,” says Chris Laurent, president of Cinnaire Solutions.
The $8.9 million development was made possible by combining low-income housing tax credits with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Section 514 loan, which provides affordable financing to develop housing for year-round and migrant or seasonal domestic farm laborers. Laurent says both the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and the USDA made allowances for their programs out of the gate to make the financing work together.
The Meadows provides 14 two- and 18 three-bedroom units for households earning between 30% and 60% of the area median income. SWCAP, a rural nonprofit anti-poverty agency, facilitates services, including English as a second language classes. The development also recently received grant funding from the state that will support a Head Start program.
“We are building a sense of community and trust,” Laurent says. “As families are starting to move in, they are finding higher levels of connectedness.”