Green Basil Farms Lands First Loan Under New Statewide Small Farm Loan Program
August 30, 2010
MassDevelopment and The Carrot Project today announced that Barbara and Ronald Weaver, who do business as America Agro Products of Greenfield, have landed the first loan issued under the MassDevelopment/Strolling of the Heifers Small Farm Loan Program. America Agro sells basil, grown through a proprietary greenhouse system, to local and regional outlets of Whole Foods Markets, local independent food stores, and farm stands. The Weavers will use the $10,500 low-interest loan to improve a greenhouse facility in Deerfield. MassDevelopment and The Carrot Project jointly administer the loan program.
â€œAs more and more people join the locavore movement, making certain farmers have the financing they need to upgrade their facilities takes on new urgency,â€ said Robert L. Culver, MassDevelopment president and CEO. â€œThis loan will help the Weavers meet demand for their basil â€“ differentiated by its unique growing method â€“ by upgrading their greenhouse. As their business grows, shoppers in New England will benefit from a locally grown product that is available all year and stays fresh longer.â€
America Agro uses the Abbasov Growing System, developed by Dr. Ganisher Abbasov, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The low-maintenance process shortens the growing cycle while still providing quality basil. Because of the Weavers' distinctive growing and packing processes, their basil has a longer shelf life. America Agro was established in 2009 and grows basil year-round, with greener and larger plants that sell for less than basil produced by other commercial greenhouses.
â€œThe Weavers are emblematic of the new and beginning farmers in Massachusetts,â€ said Dorothy Suput, founder and executive director of The Carrot Project. â€œNew farms are creating innovative business models to meet niche markets in their local areas and the greater region.â€
â€œWe're really pleased to see this loan go toward implementing an innovative new growing technique – it's really our hope that the program can encourage and facilitate farmers moving into new entrepreneurial directions,â€ said Orly Munzing, executive director of Strolling of the Heifers.
MassDevelopment, The Carrot Project, and Strolling of the Heifers launched the loan program for small farms in February 2010. Many Massachusetts farmers had seen crops ruined last year by heavy rain in June and July and extreme heat in August. The Agency has had success with similar loan products: the Aquaculture Loan Program, launched in 2005 to help the Commonwealth's aquaculture industry recover from losses due to red tide, and the November 2009 announcement of $100,000 in term working capital loans to Gloucester seafood businesses affected by the City's boil water order over the summer.
The next application deadline for the program is November 5.
MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, works with businesses, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2009, MassDevelopment financed or managed 229 projects statewide representing the investment of nearly $1.2 billion in the Massachusetts economy.
Strolling of the Heifers, www.strollingoftheheifers.com, is a non-profit organization based in Brattleboro, Vermont. Working to help save and support family farms by connecting people with the food they eat, Strolling of the Heifers organizes a major parade and festival each year in June. It makes educational grants to farmers and teachers, and raises loan guarantee capital for the Microloan Fund.
The Carrot Project, www.thecarrotproject.org, is a non-profit organization based in Somerville, Massachusetts, dedicated to creating financing solutions for small- and mid-sized farms, limited-resource farms, and those using ecologically sound practices. Its program model is designed to incubate and establish alternative financing programs in combination with business technical assistance. The Carrot Project works collaboratively with private investors, lenders, and farm support organizations to help rebuild a farming system that offers stability to local farmers, provides healthful food for citizens, replenishes the environment, and is good for regional and local economies.