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Why support the Farm/Food Business Plan Competition?

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Strolling of the Heifers and Vermont Technical College have teamed up to present the 2013 Vermont Farm/Food Business Plan Competition with multiple prizes totaling $60,000.

The purpose of the competition is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship at new and expanding farm, food and forestry businesses throughout Vermont.

“The Stroll” and VTC are each contributing significant in-kind administrative and marketing support for the competition, and each organization has pledged to raise $30,000 in prize grant funding. Your support in helping us meet that goal will enable the competition to a critical need in sustaining and building Vermont’s agricultural economy.

Here are the key reasons to invest in competition sponsorship:

  • A top Vermont priority: Agriculture is one of the state’s top three areas of focus for economic development, and the state has identified food system development as its key strategy to accomplish this goal.
  • The need for innovation: In the experience of the organizers, agricultural and food production enterprises often don’t fit will into general business plan competitions, and the typical startup funding track of angel funding and venture capital, where they need to compete with industrial and technological enterprises. Yet the need for innovation in developing new products, new markets and new methods at farm/food enterprises is as essential as anywhere else. Business-as-usual, and “the way we’ve always done it” simply do not work anymore.
  • An evolving competition: Based on this need, for two years, Strolling of the Heifers and Vermont Technical College have piloted regional business plan competitions in Southeastern and Central Vermont. The successful outcomes of these competitions, as measured by growth and expansion at winning enterprises, have led us to the launch of a statewide competition in 2013. Our hope is to further develop the competition into a set of regional competitions along with a statewide “grand prize” finals stage in 2014.
  • Key benefits to participants:
    • Expert help: As part of the process, entrepreneurs are connected with counselors at the Vermont Small Business Development Center and other entities who assist them in the preparation of plans. Many of our contestants indicate that they were not fully aware of such resources, and would not have been able to complete a business plan without this help.
    • Refining the plan: Whether or not they win, the planning process helps to focus the entrepreneurs by defining their goals, the strategies they need to reach them, and the metrics they need to understand and monitor for success.
    • Prompting the pivot: Some contestants realize, as a result of working on their business plan, that their ideas are not realistic or need significant modification. The planning process helps them avoid costly mistakes and can enable them to execute the necessary pivot to new directions.
    • The judging process: The finalist stage includes both the preparation of a detailed plan and an in-person presentation to expert judges drawn from business and finance sectors throughout the state. Finalists benefit from the questions and advice of these judges and from potential post-competition interaction with them.
    • An adaptable plan: After the competition, the plans themselves can be adapted for other purposes including applications for bank financing, proposals to startup equity funders, and grants from state and federal business-support programs.
  • The competition helps improve the quality of life in Vermont by:
    • Creating jobs in Vermont
    • Helping farm and food businesses gain visibility and promote the Vermont agricultural brand
    • Preserving and protecting the working landscape of Vermont
  • Success: Many of our winners have been able to use their prize money to launch successful new businesses or expansions. An outstanding example is Big Picture Farm of Townshend, a 2011 winner which produces goat milk caramel confections. At the time they won, Big Picture’s owners Lucas Farrell and Louisa Conrad had four goats on rented land, and were producing their candies by hand on the kitchen table. They have leveraged their plan and their winnings to gain at $49,000 USDA business grant in 2012 plus additional bank financing. Today, they own their farm, have more than 100 goats, a production facility in Brattleboro employing 17 people, customers across the country, a first-prize gold medal (for best confection) at the 2012 Sofi Summer Fancy Food Show, and plans for a move to an even larger production facility.

Past winners of the competition

The 2013 competition info page

Contact us: Orly Munzing, Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director,, 802-258-7070.