GBAF Announces First Farmer Loans in Connecticut
The Greater Berkshire Agriculture Fund
(GBAF) is a program of The Carrot Project focused on the Greater
Berkshire area, including Dutchess and Columbia Counties in NY, Litchfield County, CT and Berkshire County, MA. We've been developing technical assistance and loan programs in the region for two years, and we are very pleased to announce our first two loans ever in Connecticut.
Our experience working in the Greater Berkshire region has shown that farm and food businesses in Berkshire and Litchfield Counties are geographically isolated from lending and technical assistance services. We are eager to continue technical assistance in the region, and look forward to developing further services in partnership with other providers.
Of particular note is Maple Hollow Farm in New Hartford, CT, a Christmas tree farm nearing its fourth decade. Christmas tree production may seem like an outlier among The Carrot Project's mostly farm and food clients. Working with the Steadman family highlights the importance of serving non-food businesses that also contribute to maintaining the working landscape economy and providing for regional needs beyond food, such as fiber and wood products.
For more on Maple Hollow and Chubby Bunny farms, see their full profiles below.
Maple Hollow is a multigenerational cut-your-own Christmas tree farm in New Hartford, CT, operated for 37 years by the Steadman family. Situated in the narrow Nepaug Valley, Maple Hollow produces trees on 19 of its 22 acres of prime soil. The Steadmans’ sustainable management techniques includes basal pruning of trees by hand, no herbicide or insecticide use, and strategic integrated pest management (IPM) to foster healthy insect populations.
The Steadmans are planning to serve an increasing customer base with an improved on-site experience and an increase in available stock. Established plantings coming into production will result in an additional 1000 trees ready for sale each year, in addition to pre-cut trees the Steadmans buy in from elsewhere in New England, a significant increase over the 250 trees cut in recent years.
Considering that customer visits to the sites are compressed to three or four weekends per year, Maple Hollow constructed a separate exit and expanded the parking area to accommodate the anticipated increase in customer access. The loan funds from The Carrot Project were used to create this separate exit and expanded parking area, complete drainage work, and purchase needed equipment, including a wreath maker and brush hog.
Chubby Bunny Farm
Chubby Bunny Farm
is a diversified vegetable farm owned and operated by Dan and Tracy Hayhurst. The farm began on leased land near the Hudson River in 2002. After a drought in their first year, they jumped at the opportunity to move to Falls Village, CT. After a three-year lease period they were able to buy the land, which the previous owners generously put into a conservation easement, protecting the farmland in perpetuity against future development.
Since then, Dan and Tracy have been striving to create a rich, diverse, healthy farm, balancing the needs of the land, animals, community and family life. Chubby Bunny markets through the farmers market in Norfolk, CT; a CSA with both on-farm pickup and pickup in White Plains, NY and Fairfield County, CT; a new onsite farmstand; and an expanding array of wholesale accounts.
With the loan from The Carrot Project, Chubby Bunny purchased a used cultivating tractor and new cultivating equipment. On a diversified farm with organic methods, flexible and accurate cultivating equipment is important to maintaining good weed control on a wide array of crops, allowing crops to thrive and easing harvest. Increasing the cultivation equipment options will help Dan and Tracy maintain lower labor costs and continue to grow a diverse range of crops. “Weeds are one of our biggest challenges,” they said.