Providing business technical assistance for sustainability
“If we want to grow the food and farming sector to meet the goals of the state food plan, we need more vibrant businesses,” says Dorothy Suput, executive director of the Carrot Project (www.thecarrotproject.org). “Strong business skills and adequate business planning are essential to growing the sector and reaching diverse goals, such as providing jobs and food and working lands.”
Many small agricultural businesses in New England could benefit from strengthening their business management skills. These skills allow them to make strategic decisions such as whether to start a new enterprise, make an investment, or leave or enter a new market; and the best way to grow. Other benefits include learning which state and federal programs are available and how to gain access to them. However, Dorothy points out, such opportunities for agricultural business assistance are not consistently available across the state. “Where you live and your stage of business can determine if a business owner can get the help,” says Dorothy. In short, not enough resources currently exist to help people in this sector develop strong business skills, and the search for the services that are available can be frustrating.
The Carrot Project strives to bridge the gaps in the current checkerboard of offerings. Based in Boston, the Carrot Project helps small and midsize farms and food processors in the region gain access to financing and business-management services. With the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, the Vermont Farm and Forest Viability Program, and 50 other participating organizations, the Carrot Project is helping to launch a New England and Hudson Valley network to make business development resources more accessible. The group is drafting its guidance document, ‘The Blueprint: Building a Better Business Assistance Network for Farms and Food Businesses.’
In the coming years, the network will start putting into action the recommendations in its blueprint on how to improve business assistance services for farms and food businesses, including building a professional development network for service providers.