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Funds Available to Farm and Food Businesses

The PVGrows Loan Fund has announced our new partnership with the Fair Food Network. Pioneer Valley farm and food businesses applying for loans from the PVGrows Loan Fund are now eligible for business assistance funds. “This is an exciting development for local farm and food businesses who might be considering financing an expansion, but who don’t have the time or money to do the planning required” says Sam Stegeman, Coordinator of PVGrows.

Our March 12, 2013 PRESS RELEASE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sam Stegeman
Coordinator, PVGrows
413.665.7100 x15
www.pvgrows.net

New Funds Available to Pioneer Valley Farm and Food Businesses

The PVGrows Loan Fund has announced a new partnership with the Fair Food Network. Pioneer Valley farm and food businesses applying for loans from the PVGrows Loan Fund are now eligible for business assistance funds. Selected entrepreneurs will be paired with a business assistance partner for a period of up to three months. The cost of business assistance services will be subsidized up to $10,000, with business sharing a portion of the total cost of the assistance.

“This is an exciting development for local farm and food businesses who might be considering financing an expansion, but who don’t have the time or money to do the planning required” says Sam Stegeman, Coordinator of PVGrows.

Background

The new funds are a result of increased collaboration among local food advocates through Pioneer Valley Grows (PVGrows), a professional network of 500 people dedicated to creating a healthy food system in the three counties.  Since 2008, PVGrows members have been investigating how local lenders and investors can meet the financing needs of the rapidly-expanding local farm and food sector.  PVGrows hosts its own $750,000 loan fund, and is currently developing a larger fund, which may offer needed alternatives— such as royalty financing and equity investments— to traditional loans.“It is great to see how the financing options have been expanding in recent years, because it gives farm and food entrepreneurs the ability to shop around for the best match,” says Michael Abbate, Chief Operating Officer of Common Capital in Holyoke.  “What has been missing, however, is the ability to provide the in-depth assistance businesses need so they can develop a plan to grow and utilize the capital sources.”

What Kinds of Business Assistance Are Available?

One type of business assistance PVGrows now offers is help putting together a financing package suited to the unique needs of a local food business.  An example is the recent decision by Greenfield-based Real Pickles to invite community members to invest in the company’s transition to a worker-owned cooperative.  “When we decided we would transition Real Pickles to a worker co-op, we faced an unusual financing challenge requiring a creative solution.  Thanks to the expertise at PVGrows and their willingness to engage with us to thoroughly evaluate our options, PVGrows played an instrumental role in our decision to launch an innovative community investment campaign that only a handful of small businesses around the country have tried before.“ says Dan Rosenberg, co-owner of Real Pickles.Other types of technical assistance the fund could provide include business planning, marketing, business communications, financial management training, process improvement (food processing and/or health and safety, etc.), entrepreneur networking, and more.

Applying for New Business Assistance Funds

Examples of businesses that might be a good match for the business assistance include:

  • Existing food businesses exploring the opportunities and challenges of sourcing more from local farms.
  • Expansion of food businesses already sourcing from local farms.
  • Expansion of individual farms or other businesses engaged in aggregation, storage, distribution, processing, marketing, information technology, or other means of supporting local food system viability.
Business assistance is available to selected enterprises applying for financing from the PVGrows Loan Fund.  Applicants begin the process by filling out a simple inquiry form on the PVGrows website.

The PVGrows Loan Fund

The $750,000 PVGrows Loan Fund was established in 2009 by nine Pioneer Valley organizations dedicated to improving the local food system.  These include four lenders (Common Capital, Franklin County Community Development Corporation, Equity Trust, and Cooperative Fund of New England); two foundations (Solidago Foundation, and the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation); two non-profits (New England Small Farm Institute and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)); and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Loans of up to $250,000 are available for all types of local farm and food businesses.  The Fund is particularly interested in projects that fill gaps in the infrastructure of the local food system and that expand the market for Pioneer Valley agricultural products.

The PVGrows Network

In addition to the Loan Fund, PVGrows coordinates a professional network of people dedicated to creating a healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley. PVGrows hosts forums twice a year to provide networking and learning opportunities for the 500 members of the network.

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