Projects > Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report

Common Capital

Funding for food businesses

When the beloved western Massachusetts restaurant and tortilla factory Mi Tierra burned in 2013, Common Capital, a community loan fund, came to the owners’ aid. After the owners prepared a preliminary business plan, Common Capital helped them locate a space in Springfield for the tortilla factory and provided a low interest loan in March 2014. Later that year, the business owners found a space in Hadley for their restaurant and received another loan from Common Capital. With their significant name recognition and tortillas made with locally grown corn, the businesses flourished. The owners were able to pay off both loans early.

Common Capital, which has been in operation for 27 years, helps low- to moderate-income communities and individuals through small-business development, including loans and business assistance, one-on-one mentoring, and online learning.

Based in Holyoke, Common Capital is a Community Development Financial Institution and is part of the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund, which supports local farm and food businesses through community investments. Though it has al- ways supported local restaurants, Common Capital recently has become more involved in supporting other food and farm businesses. “Purchasing local food is an important way to increase the vitality of local communities,” says Chief Operating Officer Michael Abbate. “Opportunities for people to buy food grown locally have increased, including outside of the normal growing season, as several farmers in the area have opened year-round retail locations.”

Common Capital also has received funding from the USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative to support farm and retail operations that increase access to healthy food. With those funds, it was able to support the River Valley Co-op in Northampton, the Quabbin Harvest Co-op in Orange, and a mobile farmers market in Springfield. While it has fully disbursed the USDA funds, Common Capital plans to continue to lend to local food and farm businesses, with a focus on restaurants and food processors.

Farming - Action 3.2.6: Align and leverage existing small business development centers, community development financial institutions, community development corporations, and development finance agencies to develop innovative and unique small and micro business development services for farms.