You know things are moving in the right direction when you see a farmer whose fields were completely underwater a few years ago going on to invest for growth in their business.
A 2-acre family vegetable farm dedicated to bringing the benefits of a CSA to their tight-knit Proctorsville community, Little Village farm was hit hard by tropical storm Irene, losing 100% of their crops to flood waters in 2011. Though Cara and Jeremiah Tyrrell realized that they needed financial assistance to get back on their feet, asking for money did not feel right to them. When they heard talk of the Vermont Farm Fund on the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers listserv, the concept of “farmers lending to farmers” felt right to them.
That first $5,000 loan helped Little Village get back on its feet, enabling them to scrape the backfield of silt and debris, and buy seed for the required fall cover crop. They also purchased seed to set them up for spring planting. Though it took a few years to work through the residual effects of the flood, including swamp grass and variable growing conditions, it didn’t take long for Little Village to look to the future and start making plans to improve their small farm.
Blessed with a committed community, and a lot of hard work, Little Village Farm has gone on to increase their CSA membership, add wholesale accounts and diversify into raising eggs, various meat birds and rabbits. Cara and Jeremiah have also been working to complete an on-farm retail building to further build their business.
Knowing that extending the growing season would help maximize all of their channels, the Tyrrells applied and qualified for an NRCS High Tunnel Grant this past spring. Heating the high tunnel will enable them to offer a Winter CSA and run their indoor farm stand year-round. While the $9,500 grant promised cover the full expense of building the 30’x90’ structure, it only payed out after the construction was complete. Little Village was in need of some up front funding in order to take advantage of the grant.
Happy with their previous borrowing experience, Cara and Jeremiah applied for a Business Builder Loan from the VFF to front the costs of the new high tunnel. Jeremiah, also a contractor by trade, provided all of the labor for erecting the new greenhouse. As promised the Tyrrells paid back the loan four months later, when the NRCS completed their inspection and issued a check for reimbursement.
The Vermont Farm Fund is a program of The Center for an Agricultural Economy. In partnership with Pete's Greens, we provide no-hassle, friendly-term loans to Vermont farmers and food producers. A true revolving loan fund, as the community of recipients pays back their loans, funds are replenished for the next cycle of borrowers.