BRATTLEBORO, VT —Windham Grows Farm Business Accelerator is seeking farmer-entrepreneurs who are interested in individualized farm-business value-added scale-up plans that will include mentoring, in-kind resources, physical space, educational experience and technical expertise. By giving farmer-entrepreneurs the resources needed for high-value management skills, this project will help farmer-entrepreneurs build dynamic new farm businesses while leveraging one of Vermont’s most valuable assets—land. Based on past success and the tremendous interest throughout Vermont, Windham Grows is excited to expand services to farmers state-wide.
“From the many farmers who have contacted Windham Grows, we learned that they have specific needs that are different from value-added food businesses,” said Orly Munzing, Strolling of the Heifers Founder. “Therefore, we have created a specialized program for farmers.”
“Windham Grows will provide a business accelerator for farmers. It will assist farmers in developing value-added products and Agritourism as additional revenue streams,” said Jim Verzino, Entrepreneur-in-Residence. “Windham Grows will seek out, evaluate, and provide development support for selected farmer entrepreneurs in small cohorts, emphasizing quality, innovation, and efficient resource use.”
“The program will provide flexibility for farmer participants,” said Cindy Delgatto, Windham Grows Program Manager. “Since 2016, 37 businesses that support farms have completed the traditional Windham Grows Business Accelerator and have raised over $1.9 million in outside investments to help fund their growing businesses. We look forward to having comparable success with our farmer entrepreneurs attending the program.”
The Farm Business Accelerator begins in November and ends in April, and Windham Grows seeks farmer applicants who would like support scaling their value-added, farm-based food or beverage businesses, changing the conversation around food and farms, and strengthening their communities. Farm business leaders accepted into the program learn over the six-month course how to grow socially conscious, food-focused businesses by means of concentrated sessions on marketing, finance, production, technology and entrepreneur mindsets.
“Entrepreneurs receive mentoring, access to subject matter experts, connections to capital and non-capital resources,” said Cairn Cross, co-founder and Managing Director of FreshTracks Capital, who the other Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Windham Grows. “And cohort members become a collaborative peer group.”
“The program consists of three weekend residencies in Brattleboro and regular video meetings,” said Cross. “We also provide outside consulting services tailored to the needs of individual farmer entrepreneurs to help them move their companies to the next level, as well as prepare them for the level after that.”
In addition, the program provides food and lodging for non-local participants during the Brattleboro weekends. Graduates will develop a basic business model constructed using Live Plan software and will have created and honed a basic pitch.
Vermont’s agricultural future will be more diversified in terms of products, processing, landscape use, markets, scale and creativity. Windham Grows is dedicated to partnering with farmers in preserving their working lands through value-added agriculture and enhancing farm and food viability through diversification.