I hope this finds you in good health and good spirits. Our world has changed in many ways since we drafted this newsletter last week. As Patty Duffy, a member of The Carrot Project Advisory Board and staff at the Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union, wrote this week, “Now everyone knows what it feels like to be a farmer. Some things you have absolutely no control over can have a huge impact on every aspect of your life, family and business.” As uncertain as the weeks ahead may be, I take heart in seeing farmers moving forward with the work they've been planning all winter. Seeds and transplants are going in right on time; lambs and kids are being born; the sap is running.
We have a long way to go to build a farm and food system that works for everyone, but together, we are making it possible for visionary farmers to focus on what they do best: growing healthy food, fiber, forage, flowers, and forests, and restoring the land they steward. We are grateful for our community. With your support, we raised almost $125,000 in 2019 to help farmers thrive. This means that farmers benefit from access to business advising and training such as Making It Happen, our highly effective skill building program for farmers operating new businesses, and more commitments to a full two years of business assistance. Your support means that they are better positioned to understand their financial picture, to weather hard times and make the right decisions for themselves and their employees.Thank you.
Now as always, solid business management skills, access to capital at the right time, and building relationships with other resources are all crucial elements of supporting viable farms and food producers. I hope you enjoy learning more about how our farmers are working towards economic viability in our newest Impact Report and an interview with Dirt Capital’s Benneth Phelps about how three former clients have moved towards financial stability.
Stay well and in touch --
Founder & Executive Director
The Carrot Project
Former Carrot clients find traction with farmland expansions
After developing their business skills with The Carrot Project, three New England farms have accessed farmland with the support of Dirt Capital Partners. Whether transferring a farm from retiring owners to putting suburban pastureland in permanent conservation, these farmers applied their strong business skills to finding paths to stability and viability through land access and creative financing.
Corie Pierce of Bread & Butter Farm (Chittenden County, VT) worked with The Carrot Project almost ten years ago to add a wood-fired bakery to their young farm, in what is now the Bread and Butter farmstore and Blank Page Café.
In 2018, Bread & Butter partnered with Dirt Capital, the Vermont Land Trust and the City of South Burlington to acquire and put in motion conservation on almost 400 acres which will be converted to perennial pasture.
Doubling their acreage allowed Corie and new business partner Brandon Bless to expand pasture for their diversified livestock herd, benefiting Burlington-area residents with access to additional locally grown food.
The conservation acquisition also provides important trail linkages for developing public access trails.
North Plain Farm, in Berkshire County, MA, is a diversified vegetable and livestock operation. Tess Diamond and Sean Stanton worked with The Carrot Project in 2014 -16, and again in 2019 to improve their financial tracking and analysis, assess profitability, and develop a plan for growth.
The same year, Dirt Capital and worked with North Plain to purchase over 80 acres of farmland close to downtown Great Barrington, which will allow Tess and Sean to expand pasture operations in their same neighborhood, and to offer additional family and worker housing.
Dirt Capital and North Plain are working with the State of Massachusetts to conserve the farm under the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, and Berkshire Agricultural Ventures contributed to affordability in the interim before conservation.
Dirt Capital Partners invests in farmland in partnership with farmers throughout the Northeast, promoting sustainable farmers’ land access and security. Dirt Capital fills financing gaps and provides transaction support to farmers accessing additional land. The company facilitates farm transitions, farmland conservation and crafts long-term arrangements that allow businesses to expand securely through defined pathways to ownership. Longtime supporters of The Carrot Project will remember Benneth Phelps as The Carrot Project’s Loan and Business Assistance Manager from 2011-2016. Now Director of Farmer Services at Dirt Capital, Benneth continues to work with former Carrot clients as they move into their next phase of growth and stability. “As generational farmland transitions occur at an increasing pace, and demand for local food stays strong, creative approaches are essential to supporting young farmers to scale operations and keep farmland in production,” says Benneth.
The success of these farms is a promising indication of the growth of the small farm economy, supported by strong markets and relationships in our region and appropriate tools and resources at different stages of development. We are thrilled to have a hand in contributing to each of these farms' ability to build capacity and long-term business success.
We met our match!
We have wonderful news to share: our 2019 Ready to Grow Campaign was successful. We raised almost $125,000 to support one-on-one business technical assistance. Thank you! our contributions were doubled, thanks to generous $48,000 matching gifts from The Sandy River Charitable Foundation and three anonymous donors.
Proceeds from the Campaign go directly towards supporting small farmers and food producers. We’ve learned that making two-year commitments to farmers is crucial, as they can use this time to create new systems, learn new skills, and incorporate them fully into their businesses. The Ready to Grow campaign will allow us to make more two-year commitments, giving our clients an extra boost towards business viability.
Our deepest thanks to everyone who attended Ready to Grow and who contributed the campaign: We couldn’t have done it without you.
News from The Blueprint
For the past few years, The Carrot Project has been hosting a developing alliance of business assistance service providers working with farm and food businesses across New England and The Hudson Valley called The Blueprint. Here is the latest from the alliance:
Do you provide business assistance to farms and food businesses? Would you like to connect with others in your field? If yes, please contact Johanna to join our new listserv.
The Blueprint and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is pleased to announce a request for applications for the Northern Border Regional Commission subawards. Apply for up to $100,000 to provide one-on-one business advising services to farm and food businesses in the Northern Border region of NY, VT, NH and ME. Read more and apply here.
This work is supported by the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, The John Merck Fund, and the Hunter Grubb Foundation. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Carrot Project is embarking on a website redesign, after almost 15 years of good service from our original site. We'd like to hear from you to understand how you use our site and what new features you'd like to see. Can you take a brief (10-minute) survey to share your thoughts?
Please welcome The Carrot Project’s winter outreach fellows. Megan Galeucia is returning for her second year as the Valley to Valley Outreach Assistant, covering from the Pioneer Valley to the Hudson Valley, and Erica Reisman joins us as the Eastern Outreach Assistant, covering greater Boston, Rhode Island, and coastal to central Massachusetts and Connecticut. We’re grateful for their work to build connections with farmers, food producers and partner organizations across New England. We’re also grateful to The Hunter Grubb Foundation for making these positions possible.