Farmers + Food Producers

The Carrot Project works to increase the number of economically viable farm and food businesses. We want your businesses to be here 5, 10, 25, and even 50 years from now.

 

The Carrot Project offers one-on-one business assistance aimed at helping farmers and food business owners achieve greater financial management expertise and confidence in making business decisions that lead to long-term business success. Services may be free or cost-shared depending on location and household income.

Who Do We Serve?

Farmers and fishers who are based in MA , RI and CT, and who use sustainable methods and sell some or all of their products locally or regionally.Our programs are designed to support:

 

Food entrepreneurs who source their ingredients from these types of farmers and fishers, and sell some or all of their goods locally or regionally.

 

Our priority is start-up and early-stage farms and agricultural businesses who have low-to-moderate incomes, but we also work with more established businesses.

The Carrot Project works to build a more equitable farm and food system that creates economic, environmental, and social well-being. The Carrot Project does not discriminate on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, genetic information, veteran or disability status. We continue to seek ways to serve entrepreneurs from historically marginalized communities with particular focus on working with women and people of color.

If you live in New England but outside of MA, CT, or RI, we still may be able to help. Please contact Client Services Specialist Jeff Cole.

Ready for help?

To learn more and apply for our business support services, please use the links below.

One-on-One Coaching and Business Consulting

Loan Programs

Trainings and Workshops

One-on-One Coaching & Business Consulting

Get Help From a Business Advisor

The Carrot Project offers one-on-one coaching and business consulting aimed at helping farmers and food business owners achieve greater financial management expertise and confidence in making business decisions, which lead to long-term business success. Services may be free or cost-shared depending on location and household income.

One-on-One Coaching

The Carrot Project provides access to coaches to answer questions and help get you on the right path. We only require that you have an idea for growing and selling food or producing food using locally sourced ingredients.

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What will coaching services include?
  • A simple review of your business plan and/or development plans
  • Talking through new ideas or partially formed plans
  • Help identifying basic financial actions you can take in response to systemic disruptions such as pandemics or climate change
  • Help understanding the terms and conditions of government and/or charitable financial support programs, especially those requiring fast response times as a result of disruptions
  • More extensive coaching may be free or cost-shared, depending on your location and household income. Talk with your Carrot business advisor or coach about how to access more assistance. No advisor or coach? Email Jeff Cole.
How will coaching help you?

We offer free sessions, typically one hour or less, with The Carrot Project’s client services staff or outside consultants. Coaching can help you solidify ideas, find additional information or perspective, identify resources, and identify next steps.  Coaching can lead to one-on-one business consulting.

Email Jeff Cole to schedule a coaching session.

 

Coaching can occur over the phone, video call, or at the farm or food enterprise, depending upon location and needs.

Business Consulting

For farmers and food producers who need more in-depth support, The Carrot Project pairs clients with a professional business consultant with specialized skills. We work with you to ensure we understand your business needs and create a detailed consulting plan. Consulting services can be free or subsidized; this initial assessment is provided at no cost to the entrepreneur.

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How will business consulting help you?

Our business advisors bring decades of knowledge and experience to help you stabilize and grow your business. Whether you’re trying to evaluate a growth opportunity, better understand your costs,  set up a bookkeeping system, apply for a loan, or apply for a grant, a business advisor will help you think things through and create your best path forward.

 

Consultations can occur over the phone, video call, or on-site at the business location.

What kinds of consulting do we offer?

Services are tailored to your specific needs, and can include:

  • Business plan review
  • Creating and analyzing financial statements
  • Cash-flow budgeting
  • Enterprise planning and creating financial projections
  • Assistance in obtaining loans and other capital
  • Setting up financial tracking/management systems such as QuickBooks
  • Training in using your financial tracking system
Who is eligible for business consulting services?
  • You must have acquired, own, or lease land, or a location for their business, or are in the process of evaluating ownership or a lease.
  • You must be in operation or within one year of opening your business.

Ready to start? Fill out our request for support form to get going. Email Jeff Cole with any questions.

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Loan Programs

Apply for a Loan

The Carrot Project’s loan programs are available for businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

 

Capital or operating loans of $5,000-$50,000 are available to farm, forestry and fishery businesses, and to processing, distribution and storage enterprises that use any type of local agricultural product.

 

Loans are available for businesses that may not be able to obtain financing elsewhere, including startups and farms in the first few years of operation. Those who already have a business plan are ideally suited to apply. We offer guidance on when and how to apply for financing, as well as assistance with loan applications, and connection to lenders that lend up to $250,000.

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Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Farm and Food Loan Fund offers loans to farms and food enterprises in Massachusetts.

 

Loan Terms
  • Loans from $5,000 to $250,000 are available.
  • The interest rate is approximately 6-7% (subject to change)
  • Flexible loan terms from 1-7 years. No penalty for early payment.
  • Funds may be used for operating or capital expenses.
Who does this program serve?

Loans are available for small and midsized farms and food system enterprises using sustainable or organic practices or products. Food enterprises primarily engaged in processing, storage or distribution of local agricultural products are encouraged to apply.

 

Criteria for Farms:
  • Annual gross annual revenues of $499,999 or less.
  • Applicants must be engaged in cultivation of farm, forest or aquatic products or adding value to such products.
  • Farm property must be owned or leased by the applicant(s); leases should be in effect for at least the repayment period of the loan.
Criteria for Food Enterprises:
  • Must be involved in processing, storage or distribution of agricultural products. Businesses whose primary purpose is to process, add value to, store, or act as distributors for local agricultural products are eligible. For example: agricultural co-ops, co-packers, food hubs, produce delivery companies, cheese makers, butcher shops and farm stands are eligible when distributing or adding value to local products.
  • The business must have less than 50 employees.
  • Agricultural industry support services such as veterinarians, feed & fertilizer stores, general retail outlets, or any business whose product or service is not primarily local & agricultural are not eligible.

 

 

Application Deadline

Loan paperwork is always due on the first of the month or the next business day if the first falls on a weekend or holiday.

Loan Review Process

The Carrot Project will review applications and provide pre- and post-loan technical assistance. A volunteer loan review committee, which includes farmers and agriculture lenders, supports the work of the fund and approves loan guarantees of up to $50,000.This loan fund operates with financial backing from the Massachusetts Society for the Protection of Agriculture and in partnership with PVGrows, a subsidiary of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. PVGrows may provide additional lending of up to $200,000.

 

Ready to apply?

Fill out our Loan Inquiry Form here.

 

You may submit financials for your loan application in any format including one of our templates, which can be downloaded for free here.

 

The Carrot Project loan check list provides an overview of all the paperwork required to process a loan request. Questions? Contact Jeff Cole

Rhode Island

The Carrot Project provides loans to Rhode Island farm and food businesses in partnership with the PVGrows Investment Fund .

Who does this program serve?

Loans are available for small and mid-sized farms and food system enterprises using sustainable or organic practices or products. Food enterprises primarily engaged in processing, storage or distribution of local agricultural products are encouraged to apply.

Criteria for Farms:
  • Annual gross annual revenues of $499,999 or less.
  • Applicants must be engaged in cultivation of farm, forest or aquatic products or adding value to such products.
  • Farm property must be owned or leased by the applicant(s); leases should be in effect for at least the repayment period of the loan.
Criteria for Food Enterprises
  • Must be involved in processing, storage or distribution of New England agricultural products or materials. Businesses whose primary purpose is to process, add value to, store, or act as distributors for local agricultural products are eligible. For example: agricultural co-ops, co-packers, food hubs, produce delivery companies, cheese makers, butcher shops and farm stands are eligible when distributing or adding value to local products.
  • The business must have less than 50 employees.
  • Agricultural industry support services such as veterinarians, feed & fertilizer stores, general retail outlets, or any business whose product or service is not primarily local & agricultural are not eligible.
Application Deadline

Loan paperwork is always due on the first of the month or the next business day if the first falls on a weekend or holiday.

Loan Application Review Process

A volunteer loan review committee, which includes farmers and agriculture lenders, provides initial approval of loans which is used by PVGrows in its final determination. In this partnership, The Carrot Project is responsible for managing the application process, providing initial approval, and working with PVGrows for final approval.

The Carrot Project also provides pre- and post-loan technical assistance.

Ready to apply?

 

Your first step is to fill out our The Carrot Project -PVGrows Partnership Inquiry Form here.

 

You may submit financials for your loan application in any format, but if you would prefer a template for your financial statements, you may download a free one here.

 

The Carrot Project loan check list provides an overview of all the paperwork required to process a loan request. Questions? Contact Jeff Cole

Connecticut

The Carrot Project provides loans to Connecticut farm and food businesses in partnership with the PVGrows Investment Fund.

 

Loan Terms
  • Loans of up to $250,000 are available.
  • The interest rate is approximately 6-7% (subject to change)
  • Flexible loan terms from 1-7 years. There is no penalty for early payment.
  • Funds may be used for operating or capital expenses.

 

Who does this program serve?

Loans are available for small and mid-sized farms and food system enterprises using sustainable or organic practices or products. Food enterprises primarily engaged in processing, storage or distribution of local agricultural products are encouraged to apply.

Criteria for Farms:

• Annual gross annual revenues of $499,999 or less.
• Applicants must be engaged in cultivation of farm, forest or aquatic products or adding value to such products.
• Farm property must be owned or leased by the applicant(s); leases should be in effect for at least the repayment period of the loan.

Criteria for Food Enterprises:
  • Must be involved in processing, storage or distribution of local agricultural products. Businesses whose primary purpose is to process, add value to, store, or act as distributors for local agricultural products are eligible. For example: agricultural co-ops, co-packers, food hubs, produce delivery companies, cheese makers, butcher shops and farm stands are eligible when distributing or adding value to local products.
  • The sources of the ingredients or materials from which the product is produced are primarily within Connecticut and/or nearby states, although the points of sale need not be within this region.
  • The business must have less than 50 employees.
  • Unfortunately, agricultural industry support services such as veterinarians, feed & fertilizer stores, general retail outlets, and business whose product or service is not primarily local & agricultural are not eligible.
Application Deadline

Loan paperwork is always due on the first of the month or the next business day if the first falls on a weekend or holiday.

Loan Application Review Process

A volunteer loan review committee, which includes farmers and agriculture lenders, provides initial approval of loans which is used by PVGrows in its final determination. In this partnership, The Carrot Project is responsible for managing the application process, providing initial approval, and working with PVGrows for final approval.

The Carrot Project also provides pre- and post-loan technical assistance.

Ready to apply?

Your first step is to fill out our The Carrot Project -PVGrows Partnership Inquiry Form here.

 

You may submit financials for your loan application in any format, but if you would prefer a template for your financial statements, you may download a free one here.

 

The Carrot Project loan check list provides an overview of all the paperwork required to process a loan request.

 

Questions? Contact Jeff Cole

Crowd-Sourced Loans

The Carrot Project is a trustee for the nonprofit Kiva crowdlending platform, enabling qualified farmers and entrepreneurs in MA, CT, and RI to apply for 0% interest loans of up to $15,000. Terms are up to 36 months, and grace periods are available for agricultural businesses.

 

Who does this program serve?

Farms:
  • Annual gross annual revenues of $499,999 or less.
  • Applicants must be engaged in cultivation of farm, forest or aquatic products or adding value to such products.
  • Farm property must be owned or leased by the applicant(s); leases should be in effect for at least the repayment period of the loan.
Food Enterprises:
  • Must be involved in processing, storage or distribution of local agricultural products. Businesses whose primary purpose is to process, add value to, store, or act as distributors for local agricultural products are eligible. For example: agricultural co-ops, co-packers, food hubs, produce delivery companies, cheese makers, butcher shops and farm stands are eligible when distributing or adding value to local products.
  • The sources of the ingredients or materials from which the product is produced are primarily within Massachusetts and/or nearby states, although the points of sale need not be within this region.
  • The business must have less than 50 employees.

 

Unfortunately, agricultural industry support services such as veterinarians, feed & fertilizer stores, general retail outlets, and business whose product or service is not primarily local & agricultural are not eligible.

 

Crowdfunding is best suited for farms with a strong social media presence and network of potential lenders. Minimum funding levels from “friends and family” are required before your loan is open to crowdfunding.

Application Deadline

Loan paperwork is always due on the first of the month or the next business day if the first falls on a weekend or holiday.

Loan Application Review Process

A volunteer loan review committee, which includes farmers and agriculture lenders, provides initial approval of loans which is used by The Carrot Project staff to act as a KIVA trustee.

Ready to apply?

 

Your first step is to fill out our The Carrot Project  Inquiry Form here.

 

 You may submit financials for your loan application in any format, but if you would prefer a template for your financial statements, you may download a free one here.

 

The Carrot Project loan check list provides an overview of all the paperwork required to process a loan request. Questions? Contact Jeff Cole

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Trainings and Workshops

 

The Carrot Project offers trainings and workshops  targeted to local farm and food producers, with a focus on bookkeeping and financial management. Most workshops run during New England’s agricultural “off season” of late October through March.  Class size is limited to ensure participants get the attention they need.

Fishers, aquaculturists, and small processors using local farm and sea ingredients are always welcome and encouraged to attend.  

If workshops are not free of charge, our trainings and workshops are offered on a sliding scale to increase equity and accessibility, especially for BIPOC farmers and producers. Workshop fees should not be a barrier for any participant.

If you are interested in our training content and have missed it, you can view recordings here. You may also contact Email Jeff Cole to schedule coaching or business consulting services on our trainings.

If you are an organization interested in bringing any of our trainings or workshops to your community, or in modifying them for your community’s needs, please contact Jeff Cole.  

 

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COVID Round II: How do I prepare for 2021?

If there’s one thing that COVID taught you (it’s probably taught you many things), it’s that if you want to be sustainable, you must be nimble and ready to adapt to change.  In times of stress, the key to survival is to quickly evaluate challenges and opportunities, and make smart decisions.

Once you have made your pivots, you can’t assume it will work out as planned. You’ll want to look at how you’re doing throughout the season and decide what change is needed to end the season where you want to be.

In our four-part series, “COVID Round II: How do I prepare for 2021?”, you’ll learn:

  • what information you need,
  • how to get it,
  • and how to use it to plan quickly and evaluate your decisions in the midst of your season.

You will understand common roadblocks and solutions to maintaining the effort during busy times, and have an opportunity to work with your own numbers as part of a cohort group or one-on-one with a professional business advisor.

Making It Happen: Profitability and Success
  • “Can I pay my bills?
  • “Is my price the right price?”
  • “Should I add a new product line?”
  • “Is a capital investment worth it?”

The Making It Happen: Profitability and Success Training series for farmers and food processors will give you the financial management toolbox needed to answer these questions confidently and improve your business decision making and profitability. This interactive course presents four tools — cash flow budgeting, scenario planning, enterprise budgeting, and sensitivity analysis — that “are fundamental and work well together to provide a comprehensive toolbox,” according to a 2018 course participant.

 

The training is intended for producers with at least one year of operating experience and is approved as a USDA Farm Service Agency borrower training in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Participants in these areas receive registration priority.

 

This is material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588.

 

      

Deepening Roots, Growing Success

Deepening Roots, Growing Success is a business training program for current or aspiring urban farmers and locally-sourced food processing business operators. It covers accounting, financial management strategies, legal issues, and how to access capital. The curriculum provides specialized business assistance designed to equip participants with financial tools and business savvy to create and operate viable businesses.

 

Topics covered include:

  • Legal considerations to starting your own business
  • Entity formation
  • Preparing for financing: What lenders want to know
  • Understanding and using financial statements
  • The role of equity
  • Creating & understanding financial projections
  • Setting up useful financial management systems
  • Practical tools for financial management

Questions?

Jeff Cole

Client Services Specialist
jcole@thecarrotproject.org
617.674.2371, ext. 9

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