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Identifying & Addressing Capital Gaps: 5/2/16 Meeting & Beyond

A centerpiece of the 5/2/16 convening of the Financing Crosscutting Team was a panel framed as Findings from the Field: Identifying & Prioritizing Capital Gaps; Designing & Sharing Solutions. Panelists included:

  • Will Belongia, Executive Director, Vermont Community Loan Fund

  • Sarah Isham, Director of Agricultural Lending, VT Agricultural Credit Corporation 

  • Dorothy Suput, Founder and Executive Director, The Carrot Project

Since the meeting, two of the panelists have moved forward with pilot loan programs informed by the blueprints. VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia explained their SPROUT progam: “SPROUT financing will provide a powerful tool for emerging working lands businesses which are facing exciting growth opportunities.” Noting the unique, strategic nature of the tool, he continued: “There isn’t a loan product like SPROUT currently available to working lands entrepreneurs in Vermont. SPROUT’s rates and terms will allow VCLF to extend financing and free technical assistance to businesses that otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a VCLF loan.”

In announcing WLEB’s partnership with Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (VACC) this October, VACC President, Jo Bradley, remarked, “VACC is especially excited that through its partnership with the Working Lands Enterprise Board and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), an attractive new loan option will be made available to Vermont dairy farmers transitioning from conventional to organic milk production.”

A key design element in the blueprint for this type of financing tool was the pairing of technical assistance with low-cost capital. On May 2nd, the conversation in the room that followed the panel resonated with this sense of interdependence between capital and technical assistance as essential resources for enterprise development. Related themes included the capital readiness of entrepreneurs, facilitation of entrepreneurs navigating the system of access to capital, referrals to service providers who support access-to-capital know-how and enhance financial management skills, especially for first-time entrepreneurs.

Looking forward, the Crosscutting Team sees opportunities for potential network partnerships with the Production and Processing Working Group as well as Slow Money Vermont, which functions as an on-the-ground Task Force of the Crosscutting Team—building bridges between capital providers, entrepreneurs, and technical assistance service providers.