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Competition offers $60,000 for innovative Vermont farm, food, forestry business plans

Friday, January 4, 2013


 

 
Vermont Technical College and Strolling of the Heifers have teamed up to present the 2013 Vermont Farm/Food Business Plan Competition with multiple prizes totaling $60,000.
 
The competition, an outgrowth of regional collaboration between the two organizations in 2012, seeks to encourage new and expanding farm, food and forestry business development throughout Vermont.
 
“In the process of developing their business plans, contestants will gain practical experience in analyzing their business, their markets and their ideas,” said Steve Paddock, Director of the Vermont Tech Enterprise Center Business Incubator and one of the contest’s organizers.

All finalists will have access to free assistance from the Vermont Small Business Development Centers or Southeast Vermont Community Action in preparing their final business plan and presentations.

“It has been our dream to expand this contest to the whole state of Vermont, and this is a great step.” said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers. She added that both organizations hope to further enhance the contest in future years with regional divisions and a statewide grand prize.

In this year’s contest, new and existing businesses will compete in separate categories, and there is a student division as well. Existing businesses are defined as those who have operated for 6 months or more and have revenue up to $500,000. New businesses are in the early concept stage or in operation for less than 6 months, with minimal revenue.
 
The student category is open to any student or team of students enrolled at a Vermont college-level institution.
 
All entries must involve some aspect of farming, forestry, food processing, food distribution, food packaging or food retailing (including restaurants).
 
Up to five finalists will be selected in the New and Existing categories, and four finalists in the Student category. All finalists who complete the application process will receive a share of the prize money.
 
In each of the New and Existing categories, there is a $10,000 first prize, $8,000 second prize and $5,000 third prize, with two runner-up awards of $1,500. In the student category, first prize is $4,000, second prize $2,000, and there are two runner-up awards of $1,000.
 
Finalists in the 2012 competitions organized by Strolling of the Heifers and Vermont Technical College are not eligible to compete in 2013, but may return to the competition in future years. Contestants in 2012 who were not selected as finalists are invited to apply, as are all 2011 contestants.
 
Since the intent of the competition is to help create and retain jobs, foster economic growth, and improve the quality of life in Vermont, contest entries will be reviewed and judged based on such criteria as likelihood of success and job creation (direct or indirect). For instance, will the proposed business or expansion create new jobs opportunities, or positively affect other businesses such as suppliers or distributors, or make an ancillary impact such as drawing tourists to the area?
 
To enter, contestants should register online at www.strollingoftheheifers.com (event registration menu tab). Full rules and information will be found at that site as well.
 
After registering, contestants must attend a Feb. 5 orientation workshop, either in person or an interactive video presentation provided via Vermont Interactive Technologies, which will be available in multiple locations through out the state. They will then prepare a three-page business prospectus due March 8.
 
Judges, drawn from financial as well as farm, food and forestry businesses throughout the state, will select finalists in each category by March 20. Finalists will then prepare detailed business plans, due May 22, and will make presentations to the judges at Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro on the morning of June 5.
 
Awards will be presented later on June 5 at an awards ceremony also at Marlboro Grad Center, and finalists will have an opportunity to meet investors, entrepreneurs, bankers, educators, and others attending the Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit which begins that day.
 
Recognizing that some entrepreneurs wish to keep their plans confidential, the competition is run privately, with materials kept secure and confidential; judging sessions are not open to the public, and only the business names of finalists and winners will be disclosed.
 
Past winners of the competition were Lucas Farrell and Louisa Conrad, owners of Big Picture Farm in Townshend. Farrell and Conrad won top honors in 2011, and have since then significantly expanded their business which markets goat milk taffy, and won the Gold Award for best confection at the 2012 Sofi Summer Fancy Food Show.

Other past winners include Kelt and Kristina Naylor of Side Hill Farm of Brattleboro, The Gleanery restaurant of Putney and Deer Ridge Farm of Guilford, Raven Hill Farm of Braintree, and Freedom Foods of Randolph.

Strolling of the Heifers, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, was founded in 2001 with the goal of helping to save and sustain family farms by connecting people with healthy local food. Annually in June, it presents the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, in which heifer calves and other farm animals, bedecked with flowers, are led up Brattleboro’s Main Street. When it’s over, the crowd follows the parade to the Slow Living Expo for food, entertainment, education, and fun. Both the parade and expo and the main financial vehicle that support the year round initiatives that support the mission of Strolling of the Heifers.  Annually, Strolling of the Heifers also presents the Slow Living Summit conference in Brattleboro focused on sustainable economies, communities and policies.  The annual farm/food business plan competition began in 2011 as a local contest organized in partnership with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, with a vision to expand statewide. On the web: www.strollingoftheheifers.com.

Vermont Technical College is the only public institution of higher learning in Vermont whose mission is applied education. One of the five Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Tech serves students from throughout Vermont, New England, and beyond at its two residential campuses in Williston and Randolph Center, regional campuses in Brattleboro and Bennington and at six nursing sites located throughout the state. Our academic programs encompass a wide range of engineering technology, agricultural, health, and business fields that are vital to producing the knowledge workers need most by employers in the state and in the region. On the web: www.vtc.edu.

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Media Contacts:

Orly Munzing, Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director, orlymunzing@gmail.com, 802-258-9177

Martha Trombley Oakes, Associate Dean, Institutional Advancement, Vermont Technical College, MTrombleyOakes@vtc.vsc.edu, 802-727-1732

Martin Langeveld, Strolling of the Heifers Marketing Director, newsafternewspapers@gmail.com, 802-280-0226