BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Area Farmers' Market's bid to sink its roots deeper into its Western Avenue market site got a big boost this week when two different financial packages came through which will help with the market's two recent land acquisitions.
Tuesday night the Brattleboro Selectboard approved a $40,000 Small Business Assistance Program Loan which will be used as a bridge loan as the market moves ahead with development of the former Planet Gas Station on Western Avenue.
And the next day, Vermont's Working Lands Enterprise Board announced that the Brattleboro Area Farmers' Market would receive $30,000 to help with the site acquisition and expansion of the market footprint on the main market site which is currently owned by Green Mountain Power
"It's really been a fantastic week," said Lisa Holderness, co-owner of Deer Ridge Farm and one of the market members who wrote the Working Lands Enterprise grant application. "We're very excited to see progress like this happen after two decades of work."
Holderness, who worked on the grant with fellow market member Susan Dunning, said the town's bridge loan will allow the market to move ahead with development of the Planet Gas Station site during this season while the market waits for a USDA grant.
The underground tank has already been removed and the market board wants to use the former Western Avenue gas station property to improve traffic flow on busy market Saturdays.
"The town's loan is going to allow us to ease congestion and have more parking as soon as possible," Holderness said.
The Working Lands Enterprise money was part of $1.1 million in grants that were given out for 37 agricultural and forestry projects across the state.
The farmers' market will use the Working Lands Enterprise grant to help complete the purchase of the 1.9 acre parcel along Whetstone Brook where the vendors set up every Saturday during market season.
"We are very excited to receive the Working Lands Enterprise grant. It is a tremendous boost to this project," said Brattleboro Area Farmers' Market Manager Martha Miller. "We will be fund raising for the uncovered portions of this project later this summer as we continue to transform the new site into a more accessible, fully usable parking lot."
The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
This is the second year that the agricultural and forestry grants have been given out.
"We recognize the tremendous economic and environmental impact that our working lands businesses have across the state of Vermont," Gov. Peter Shumlin said after the awards were announced. "By investing in technical assistance and infrastructure for our ag and forest economies, we are creating jobs and supporting a quality of life that will attract Vermonters and out-of-staters for generations to come."
The farmers' market grant was included among the $459,880 in capital and infrastructure grants that are going to be used for seven agricultural and three forestry projects.
The Working Land Enterprise Board received a total of 38 capital and infrastructure letters of intent totaling about $2.2 million.
"The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative builds upon Vermont's history and culture through investment in our state's backbone; our forests, farms, food, recreation and wood products economies," said Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Chuck Ross. "It takes investment in infrastructure and support services at all stages of business development to grow and maintain a vibrant working lands sector."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.