Back in February 2011, shortly after the fire at our farm that took our barn, and after receiving so many donations from our community to help us get back on our feet, we decided we wanted to eventually pay the donations forward somehow.
With the help of Monty Fischer and Elena Gustavson at Center for an Agricultural Economy and the volunteer efforts of board members Vern Grubinger, Bruce Urie, and Robin McDermott and Pete, the non profit Vermont Farm Fund was created with the intent that the money that was so generously given to us could eventually circulate again to support other sustainable VT farms.
And then... Irene
When Tropical Storm Irene came through at the end of August 2011, impacting so many Vermont farmers, it was clear that the Vermont Farm Fund could play an important role. Though we were still recovering financially from our fire, we paid forward a large sum of the donations we received into the new fund to enable the VFF to start giving loans to farmers in crisis. Once launched, more donations to the fund came in from individual donors, classrooms of school children, and other non profits like the Waterwheel Foundation who generously donated $50,000. Within 3 weeks, the Vermont Farm Fund had begun awarding 0% interest loans of $5000 or $10,000 to farmers who sustained damage from Hurricane Irene.
One Year post-Irene
The Vermont Farm Fund Emergency Loan Program gave out over a dozen loans to Vermont farmers in 2011, totaling $125,000!
The farms that were helped:
Kingsbury Market Garden
Evening Song Farm
Joe’s Brook Garden
Jersey Girls Farm
Crystal Springs Farm
Jericho Settlers Farm
Little Village Farm
Sweet Rowen Farmstead
Each farm was approved for a zero percent interest Emergency Loan of either $5,000 or $10,000 and with the exception of Evening Song Farm who is still seeking land, all are back on their feet and farming again!
Sweet Rowen Farmstead, after losing their processing facility last summer, had a grand “re-opening” in Albany on Mother’s Day this year and is selling their gently pasteurized, grass fed milk to local retail outlets including the Capitol City Farmers’ Market in Montpelier.
Kingsbury Market Garden, a two year old farm in Warren, Vermont, lost a good portion of their soil and crop to the storm waters of Irene last August. After receiving the Vermont Farm Fund Emergency loan, Suzanne and Aaron are back in business, streamlining their operations and enjoying great demand for their products.
Joe’s Brook Farm, located in St. Johnsbury experienced near total losses of their fall crop to Tropical Storm Irene. The timeliness of the VFF Emergency loan allowed them to take advantage of the good spring weather and put the devastating losses of last summer behind them.
2012 The Innovative Loan Program
The second phase of the Vermont Farm Fund, the Innovative Loan Program was launched in June 2012. This loan program will support farms who are innovating to increase the diversity of local foods available in Vermont. This program, the original intention of the Vermont Farm Fund when it was first established in March 2011, was put on the back burner in August 2011, so we could respond swiftly to the needs of our agricultural community when it was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene. With your overwhelmingly generous response, we were able to do exactly that and now, we are excited to begin building a revolving loan fund that will move our food system forward. We will continue to receive donations for the Emergency Loan program alongside the Innovative Loan program.
Why does VFF give loans rather than grants?
Businesses in crisis need fast access to money. Whether it is a grant or a loan with easy terms is less important than how long it takes to get the money, how burdensome the application process is. Disasters are part of farming. Fires, floods, heavy snows, hailstorms and droughts are not going to go away. We intend to build VFF into a loan fund with significant assets so that it can better respond to future events. In order to do so we can't rely solely on the unending generosity of donors to the fund, the payback of previous loan recipients is an important element to keeping this money going.
Donate and spread the word!
The needs of farmers across the state is great. Many have lost their crops, their processing equipment, farm machinery, greenhouses, hay, even land as rivers changed course and scoured away entire acreage. If you are able, please make a tax deductible donation to the Vermont Farm Fund through the Center for an Agricultural Economy so that Vermont farmers can continue their work of bringing good local food to our tables. And please share this news widely!
Please visit the new website for the Vermont Farm Fund.
Mail your Donation:
Vermont Farm Fund
Center for an Agricultural Economy
PO Box 422
140 Junction Road
Hardwick, VT 05843