“There is a generation of young people eager to farm, however they do not know where to turn; a good place for your program.”
— Lisa MacDougall of Mighty Food Farm, a 2009 Microloan recipient
The Carrot Project works at the forefront of change by helping to create a sustainable
local farm and food economy. Our work facilitates access to financing and business support so
that today’s small farm and food businesses can grow into thriving, enduring enterprises. We
make long-term investments in the building blocks of the food system that contribute to healthful food for consumers, a replenished environment, and strengthened regional and local economies.
We work with family farms that use sustainable growing methods, and food system
businesses that sell their products locally and regionally. Despite their strong skills as growers
and craftspeople, these farmers and food entrepreneurs face difficulties accessing capital. We
help them to understand their financial picture, and, when appropriate, apply for and manage
The Carrot Project administers four business technical assistance and regional loan
funds, in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and the Greater Berkshires. We work with
approximately 70 farm and food businesses per year, providing business support services and
access to financing. Since 2009, our lending and loan packaging has totaled more than
$1,000,000 to over 50 businesses. We work with four lending institutions and 37 investors to
achieve these outcomes.
Working on the ground in multiple states gives us a unique perspective, which we use
to catalyze greater numbers of lenders and greater availability of financing devoted to small farm and food businesses. We accomplish these objectives through documenting lessons learned, collaborations, research, and trainings. We have advised, trained, and consulted with a range of entities as they consider entering the field and focusing their work within it. The Carrot Project supports the economic viability of farm and food businesses while increasing capacity and the availability of financing within the sector.
Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, The Carrot Project was founded by Dorothy Suput in 2005. While living in Switzerland, with a very different agricultural system than she had experienced in her Midwestern U.S. upbringing, Dorothy traveled throughout the country and “acquired a different sensibility about what kind of agriculture could have positive impacts on the environment and on communities. I couldn’t help but notice the relative connection of the farms to their communities. It seemed to me that Switzerland had found a better way of doing agriculture,” she says. Dorothy returned to the U.S. and entered a Master’s program at Tufts University, in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), where she pursued her interest in policy and advocacy issues, in addition to learning about U.S. agriculture and the non-profit sector. Her experiences in graduate school and subsequent non-profit work led her to wonder about the business side of sustainable agriculture, and whether new, emerging business models could sustain farm families. This interest and the then-limited focus on financing within the sustainable agriculture sector led to the organization’s founding.
An early organizational task was “to recruit a board of advisors that understands the problem, can help craft solutions, and lends weight, credibility, and decades of experience to the effort through their personal backgrounds and vocations,” says Susan McMahon, founding Advisory Board member. The Carrot Project is proud of its accomplishments, beginning with the first loan program in 2009, in building capacity both to provide financing to individual farmers and to increase the knowledge base and conversation in this sector. Our work was most recently recognized in 2010 by the Glynwood Center through its Harvest Wave of the Future Award.
Matthew Burke, Bloomfield Farm, microloan recipient. Photo credit E. Ferry.
The Carrot Project's E-newsletter is sent out 3-4 times per year. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please send a message with your name, town/city, state, and if you are a farmer to info AT thecarrotproject.org.