"The more we can help each other out as neighbors, the better off we'll all be. The Loan Fund helps others like you would expect a neighbor to help you."
"Buy Local" is a philosophy many Vermonters live by, whenever we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars here at home, to buy products and services made, produced or sold in Vermont. Buying locally supports our neighbors, our community and our state. It strengthens our local economy and enhances social and economic connections within the community. Many of the Loan Fund's investors apply that same principle when they choose to invest with us.
Ezekiel "Zeke" Goodband decided he wanted to do just that: invest locally. A fruit tree orchardist in southeastern Vermont for some 30 years, Zeke cares for both his own small, four-acre apple tree nursery and also works as the orchard manager at the Scott Farm, a 40-acre orchard near Brattleboro. He is well-known and highly regarded in the apple community both for his knowledge of apples - especially heirloom varieties - as well as his dedication to environmentally sensitive orchard management.
Zeke's respect for the land that provides him his living parallels his belief in social responsibility. In 2008, he suffered an injury on the farm which resulted in torn cartilage in his knee, requiring surgery and recovery time. He received an insurance reimbursement, but once the check was in-hand, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with the money. While it wasn't a huge settlement, it was enough that Zeke wanted the funds "to stay safe and do good." When asked about the specific amount of money - dollars and change - he chuckles, "I guess that's what insurance companies think a little piece of cartilage is worth these days!" Zeke heard about the Vermont Community Loan Fund through some friends and decided he'd found his answer.
"I wanted the money somewhere where it would do some good, earn interest, and eventually come back to me when I needed it," he explains. "I could have put it in a local bank but the interest rates were too low - and I wanted to put it away somewhere where I knew it would definitely stay in the community."
Zeke feels very strongly about buying goods and services from his neighbors whenever possible. It's a way of life for him, his friends and the farming community of which he is a part.
"I refuse to set foot in a place like Home Depot," he laughs. "I buy what I need at my local hardware store, which has been in our town for years. The store owner buys apples at our place, so I want to patronize his business, too." Zeke likes the reciprocity of keeping local dollars and building relationships with his neighbors - both those in his own back yard and those around the state. "Vermont's a small state, a small community, but even witha population of 600,000, I can still pretty much get to know people. I know of other farmers, not necessarily personally, but by their good reputation in and around the state. We're sort of a big community on our own."
Although Zeke is not a native Vermonter (he was raised in Massachusetts), he has a genuine love for the state, its agricultural heritage and rural culture. It's what brought him here in the first place: Zeke came to Vermont in 1970 to study at Goddard College in Plainfield, graduating with a degree in ecology and agriculture.
"I look at it this way," explains Zeke as he looks fondly over his sheep and lambs grazing near his orchard. "The more we can help each other out as neighbors, the better off we'll all be. The Loan Fund helps others like you would expect a neighbor to help you."