The Carrot Project: Investing in Local Sustainable Agriculture and Food

Jun 9, 2021 8:35 AM ET

by Dorothy Suput, founder and executive director of The Carrot Project 

During the pandemic, farmers and food producers selling locally showed their strength, as the weaknesses of our global food supply chain were exposed. Farmers relying on wholesale distribution systems, such as dairies, were dumping product because of a breakdown in supply chains. Meat processing plants slowed operations, negatively impacting supply. Meanwhile, local producers ramped up production, updated their online systems, or pivoted from institutional buyers to grocery stores and direct-to-consumer sales. Thriving local farms not only came through with good food, but continued to steward the land and give back to their communities.

Our local food ecosystem’s resilience results from the incredible work ethic of farmers, buoyed by collaboration with business development programs and the help of state and federal governments, philanthropy and the growing role of private investors. The bottom line, Investing in local and sustainable farms and food businesses strengthens communities, especially in the wake of this pandemic. And opportunities to invest in local food are expanding. 

How did we arrive at this growing ecosystem of capital providers for local, sustainable agriculture? It didn’t happen overnight. Before banks consolidated, a trend that escalated in the 1990s, small farms could usually access capital easily. When The Carrot Project started in 2006, there was little recognition that the banking sector no longer met the needs of the small, but growing, local agricultural movement. Capital providers tended to assume that when a farmer was unable to secure capital, it was the farmer’s fault, thinking the farmer had a poor business or wouldn’t do the work to meet the needs of the lender. This vacuum of capital for farmers led to funds working with private investors. Over the last fifteen years, the availability of capital has transformed. 

Read Dorothy's full article that features many of the farms they work with including Greenfield Highland Beef and Heart Beets Farm and others all here -