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VT Community Loan Fund Lends Almost $2.8 Million to VT Businesses, Farms & Food Entrepreneurs, Affordable Housing Developers and Early Care & Learning Programs in 2nd Quarter 2019

investinvermont.org

Jeffersonville food entrepreneur Lea Ann Macrery has never lacked for drive. Now, thanks to financing from the Vermont Community Loan Fund, her new business, My Favorite Things Food Truck, is ready to hit the road.

“I love the challenge of it, the heat of it, the pressure of it,” she says of her 65-plus-hour work week, which finds her planning, prepping, cooking, baking, marketing, and, of course, driving her food truck to local venues and events. “I love the chaotic energy.”

Lea Ann grew up in Pretoria, South Africa’s bustling administrative capital. With a South African mother and American father, she was granted dual citizenship at birth. Even as a young child, “I imagined owning my own restaurant, cooking for everyone,” she says dreamily. When a year of college didn’t feel like the right fit, she set out at age 18 for New York City’s culinary lights.

“I worked at lots of different restaurants, some high-end, some not, taking it all in like a sponge, working front-of-house, bartending, managing. Then,” she adds with a breath,  “I switched to hot line cook, and I knew instantly it was where I belonged.”

She immersed herself in cooking and baking, changing up South African recipes she knew and loved from childhood, “mixing it up, adding spices and broth to rice or pap, which is a thick, South African cornmeal dish. I made sauces, and meat pies!  Who doesn’t love a meat pie?” she says, breaking into laughter.

Driven by the pace and opportunities afforded by city living, she gained skills and experience over her eight NYC years, before an indelible visit to Vermont altered her course. “I fell in love with Vermont - the landscape, the green, and the quiet!” 

She hardly pumped her brakes after moving to Vermont. Now married and mother to a young son, Lea Ann met with longtime VCLF borrower/partner the Mad River Food Hub about starting a business making frozen meat pies, all while preparing for the birth of her second son. My Favorite Things Food Truck would be ready for ‘roll-out,’ she figured, by his third birthday. (SPOILER ALERT: Nyezi indeed turned three in March of this year!)

Having found her way forward, Lea Ann just needed her wheels. She’d seen it online: the perfect food truck – a gleaming, 22-foot long stainless-steel kitchen, affordably-used-but-not-too-used, in great condition and ready to rule the roads at a roaring max of 55 miles per hour.

“But I knew I’d need capital up front,” she says. Various conversations with traditional lenders, and the ensuing rejections, led to her the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

With VCLF’s input, Lea Ann wove together strategies incorporating optimal vending sites and events alongside development of a catering business and private chef work in winter months to strengthen her business year-round. Following some tweaks and refinements to her business plan, Loan Fund financing was approved.

 “I put together my 10% equity,” she says, picked up the truck and drove it home.

“VCLF felt my business plan was credible. Working with them, I felt like somebody believed in me, and believed in my potential to positively impact the community,” Lea Ann says.

My Favorite Things Food Truck officially hit the road on the 4th of July, debuting at the Jeffersonville Independence Day parade. You’ll easily spot her red, white and blue truck at many of Vermont’s summer events and festivals, selling out of meat pies, fried chicken sandwiches, poutine and other specialties at super-speed.

For now, husband Corey helps with the register, and 13-year-old Owen may come along to work the window. She plans, eventually, to expand, hire help and branch out to additional locations,  “but right now I want to focus on serving and getting to know my community, and their getting to know me and my food. I want to stay around the Jeffersonville area, and be here consistently, so they know where to find me,” she says.

The drive was always there, she says, but the Vermont Community Loan Fund provided the opportunity.

“I’m so grateful to the Loan Fund. Without them,  I’d be doing whatever good work I could do, but I definitely wouldn’t have the food truck,” she says, firmly. “VCLF is making a difference in communities all over Vermont. They’re propagating community growth and they’re strengthening individuals so they can rise up. I’m becoming a better and better cook, and I’m getting stronger.”

As for driving the truck through those infamous Smuggler’s Notch area switchbacks and turns, Lea Ann says “It’s a little intimidating, but you get used to it. You learn to go slow when you’re making turns. This experience, it’s always a positive road.”

Find My Favorite Things Food Truck scheduled locations at https://www.facebook.com/myfavoritethingsvt/   

Financing was also provided to:

Babette’s Table, Plainfield
Babette’s Table produces artisanal charcuterie out of Waitsfield’s Mad River Food Hub, a longtime VCLF partner/borrower. Owner Erika Lynch tapped into VCLF’s Equipment Access Program (EAP) to lease a specialized feed mixer/grinder, which she’ll eventually have the option to purchase at a discounted rate.babettestable.com  

Drip Drop Acres, Barton
Drip Drop Acres operates on 350 acres owned by the same family for over a century. The owners came to the Loan Fund with a start-up plan to cultivate berries and process maple products for sale online and at retail and wholesale outlets. VCLF financing is being used to purchase a pumphouse, sugarhouse and other equipment, supplies, starter plants, and more. The loan helped create one new job. dripdropacres.com

Fresh Roots Farm, Sharon
Fresh Roots Farm is an organic vegetable operation that’s grown from two acres on leased land to 10.5 acres of owned land. With six acres and four greenhouses currently in use, 2019 sales are up 50% over last year. VCLF financing assisted with costs of seeds, fertilizer, harvest bins and payroll. The loan helped preserve one full-time job. facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Roots-Farm/1607414642842778

North Branch Vineyards, Montpelier
Former Loan Fund borrower North Branch Vineyards returned to VCLF for help financing new vineyard improvements and supplies. Financing helped preserve one part-time and one full-time job. northbranchvineyards.com

Snug Valley Farm, East Hardwick
The 150-acre Snug Valley Farm produces grass-fed pork, beef and pumpkins, sold through wholesale, retail and on-farm distribution channels. They also rent out an additional 120 acres of crop and grazing land. A 2018 expansion allowed them to increase the number of grazing cows brought onto the farm on a contract basis. Today, VCLF refinancing will give the owners more flexibility. Financing helped preserve two jobs.  http://www.snugvalleyfarm.com/ 

 

Since 1987, the Vermont Community Loan Fund has loaned $110 million to local businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved 6,500 jobs; built or rehabilitated 4,100 affordable homes; created or preserved quality care for over 4,100 children and their families; and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters. investinvermont.org