“For the past twenty years, the Loan Fund has been lending for food, farms and forests. This new fund is both the rebirth and recommitment of VCLF’s energies in addressing the capital hurdles faced by emerging food, farm and forest enterprises,” VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia told a sizeable crowd of VCLF investors & borrowers, supporters, partners & friends.
The Food, Farms & Forests Fund will grow and sustain the capital and technical assistance resources that VCLF makes available to meet the financial and business consulting needs of small farms, food producers, and working landscape entrepreneurs. With support from private investors, philanthropists, foundations and other institutions, the Food, Farms & Forests Fund provides flexible financing to Vermont’s agriculture-related businesses – a sector which historically has had difficulty obtaining loans from traditional lenders. The Fund also provides a unique opportunity for private investors to put investments of all sizes to work in support of Vermont’s food producers and small farms.
Belongia was clearly pleased to announce that the party’s host, Shelburne Farms, had committed to be the Food, Farms & Forests Fund’s initial “seed” investor, inviting Shelburne Farms’ President Alec Webb onstage.
“VCLF’s Food, Farms and Forests Fund advances our own mission as an economically viable working landscape institution here in Vermont. We’re glad to have an opportunity to put a portion of our endowment to work supporting this critical work.” said Webb.
VCLF plans to provide $1 million in financing in the first year of the Food, Farms & Forests Fund’s work, resulting in over 100 Vermont jobs. The five-year strategic goal for the Fund is to lend $5 million, leading to approximately 520 Vermont jobs created or preserved.
Joe Bossen, CEO of Vermont Bean Crafters, producers of bean-based food products, shared his experiences as a Loan Fund borrower and rising star in the Vermont localvore sphere.
“With the Food, Farms and Forests Fund, the Loan Fund is laying the groundwork that will lead to a countless amount of food and meals,” Bossen said, describing his vision for feeding more Vermonters while lessening the environmental impact of growing food and getting it to consumers.
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets Secretary Chuck Ross spoke of the many integrated services and resources necessary to feed Vermont, and the many synchronicities between VCLF, the new Food, Farms & Forests Fund and Vermont’s long agricultural history.
Loan Fund borrowers Bob and Lee Light of Hollister Hill Farm B&B joined in priaisng the Loan Fund, crediting their success as agri-tourism innkeepers and 2015 winners of Yankee Magazine’s Best of New England award to the Loan Fund’s assistance. “We were farmers. Banks didn’t want to talk to us,” Bob Light said, describing their efforts to find financing for their diversifying business. “Then we found VCLF, and they’ve been absolutely phenomenal in helping us grow and stay sustainable."