Windham Grows recognized for innovation, inspiration

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BRATTLEBORO — Windham Grows, a project of Strolling of the Heifers, Inc., is the recipient of the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) Innovation and Inspiration Award.

Orly Munzing, founder of Strolling of the Heifers, will accept the award at the 18th Annual VBSR Awards Ceremony and Dinner in September. Munzing developed the pioneering Windham Grows Food and Agriculture Business Accelerator. The program is a socially responsible food and agriculture business accelerator that provides a cohort experience and critical services, resources, financing, and business mentors to early-stage food and agriculture businesses.

Munzing's vision has resulted in the building of an ecosystem supportive of emerging "agri-preneurs" who start up and operate innovative agribusinesses and farms that practice sustainable techniques. The cohort experience gives participants the opportunity to address the challenges of, and to share the successes in, creating sustainable food systems.

Seventy-five percent of businesses in the Windham Grows program are women-owned. Munzing has created new alliances between food-and-farm entrepreneurs and potential investors, she has inspired entrepreneurs to embark on joint ventures, and she has gathered together a large group of community volunteers committed to the sustainability of local agriculture.

Because no entity is currently focused on providing a full range of cohort support to food and agriculture businesses, Windham Grows is designed to strengthen the agriculture sector by developing the most promising food and agriculture businesses in Vermont. Using a systematic approach, Windham Grows seeks out, evaluates, and provides development support for selected entrepreneurs in cohorts, emphasizing quality, innovation, and efficient resource use.

By giving entrepreneurs in food and agriculture the resources needed for high-value management skills, this project builds dynamic new businesses that create meaningful jobs and increase average wages.

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Munzing founded Strolling of the Heifers in 2002 and served as its executive director until May 2019. She remains with the organization with the title of founder of Strolling of the Heifers. Over the years, Strolling of the Heifers has launched educational programs, a micro-loan fund, and a farm internship program for youth, all of which are now carried on by other organizations. In addition to Windham Grows, the Stroll continues to operate the farm/food business planning competition; the Locavore Index; the Farm/Food Innovation Center at the River Garden; the Farm-to-Table Apprenticeship Program; and the Slow Living Summit.

This year, the Slow Living Summit, which will be held Thursday and Friday, June 6 and 7, has as its theme the "Future of Women in Food Entrepreneurship." For registration information and the schedule of speakers, go to www.slowlivingsummit.org.

The mission of Strolling of the Heifers is to connect people with healthy local food, encouraging and facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship in the farm/food sector, and supporting the development of stronger local food systems and healthy, sharing, connected, and resilient communities.

Jim Verzino, entrepreneur-in-residence at Windham Grows, nominated Munzing for the award.

In addition to Munzing, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility will present two other awards at its Annual Awards Ceremony and Dinner at Basin Harbor on September 25.

Bram Kleppner, CEO at Danforth, will receive the Terry Ehrich Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award honors an outstanding individual in honor of Terry Ehrich, late owner of Hemmings Motor News and a founding member of the board of directors of VBSR. The award is given annually to a person exemplifying Ehrich's commitment to community, the environment, progressive public policy, and the workplace.

The VBSR Young Changemaker Award will be given to Dan Hock, the programs director and 10-year veteran of Old Spokes Home Bike Shop and Non-Profit. Old Spokes Home creates access to bikes and the opportunities they provide for the whole community by selling new and used bikes, offering affordable full service repairs, free bikes and accessories to young children, and through youth empowerment and job training in partnership with organizations like Vermont Works for Women, Spectrum, Vermont Adult Learning and others.


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