Event to explore ways of financing ag, farm and forest entrepreneurs

MIDDLEBURY — Growing local agricultural business is all well and good, but how do farmers pay for it?

That’s the question that a number of area groups are seeking to answer with a “Financing the Working Landscape” conference in Middlebury next Thursday, Nov. 10.

The conference is a collaboration among the Addison County Relocation Network, Addison County Economic Development Corp. and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. ACORN President Jonathan Corcoran said the event aims to connect entrepreneurs in forestry, food and agriculture with sources of capital.

Speakers throughout the day will discuss sources of funding and examples of successful capital-building from projects across the New England region, including some instances of community-supported “slow money” projects.

Corcoran said the event was inspired, in part, by a national Slow Money meeting at Shelburne Farms last year, but it isn’t entirely focused on building local capital — speakers will discuss a range of financing options including loans, grants and crowd-funding using the Internet.

The conference will also offer eight local entrepreneurs — including Eric Andrus of Boundbrook Farm in Vergennes and Jeff Weaber of Aqua Vitea Kombucha in Salisbury — the chance to make short business pitches to the audience, followed by several matchmaking sessions in which entrepreneurs will be able to meet with capital providers to discuss their ideas.

Event organizers welcome entrepreneurs, investors, the capital community and the general public to attend.

Corcoran said ACORN has gotten involved with this issue because local capital goes hand in hand with local food and local energy. He hopes the event will spark a conversation surrounding community financial support for agricultural and food-related endeavors.

“The spirit is really about economic development,” he said. “It’s about how we create a culture that really encourages and supports entrepreneurs.”

The Financing the Working Landscape conference will run from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Middlebury American Legion. The conference costs $30, or $20 for students, and includes a local foods lunch prepared by student chefs at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury. More information and registration is available at acornvt.org.

Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at andreas@addisonindependent.com.

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