Women's History Month

Greetings, Franklin County CDC Community!

You probably already know this, but in the U.S., women haven't always had rights. We scored the vote in 1920. It wasn't until 1974 that a woman could hold a credit card or a bank account in her own name. However, these restrictions haven't stopped women from being entrepreneurs.

A new book chronicles the stories of women who lived in early 20th century Greenfield. Local historians Sara E. Campbell and Shari Strahan wrote the history "Did Grandma Have a Filling Station? Greenfield Women and Their Historic Businesses" (Remembering Ancestors, 2023), which is for sale at (woman-owned) Federal Street Books. "Did Grandma Have a Filling Station" tells the stories of milliners, a midwife, a fabric manufacturer, a hotelier and waffle restauranteur (!), and many other Greenfield women. The stories reflect the reality that even in a period where women experienced limits on their freedom, they often worked and owned businesses.

Today, despite challenges (the wage gap, the shortage and high cost of childcare, and lack of paid maternal leave are but a few examples), women still start and run businesses. Entrepreneurship can help women short-circuit the persistent wage gap, and the Franklin County CDC works with many women business owners who seek the freedom that owning a business can bring. The stories of some of them are told in the newsletter below. We encourage you to seek out and shop at women-owned businesses. And if you're a woman who wants to start, stabilize, or grow a business, we can help. Happy Women's History Month!

Kate Lawless

Communications Director

Business Blueprint in the News

Since 2021, small businesses in western Massachusetts have been receiving personalized mentorship and training through a local resource called the Business Blueprint. Housed at the Franklin County CDC and available to owners of businesses in Westfield, the program was developed by one of our business technical assistance consultants, Jack Clemente, and is funded by a Community Development Block Grant. MassLive featured the program in a recent article.

Tina D'Agostino, owner of Blooms Flower Truck and Studio, of Westfield, participated in the Business Blueprint Program’s last round, the article notes. Tina told MassLive that learning coping mechanisms to handle unexpected stress was one of the greatest takeaways of the program. Her business had a presence at the Front Porch at the Big E in 2022.

This link has more information and the application for the Business Blueprint for Westfield-based businesses.

Photo by Jeanette DeForge from The Republican.

Read the story

Second Take the Floor Set for March 28

Mark your calendars and plan to join us at LaunchSpace in Orange on March 28, 6–8 p.m., for our second of four Take the Floor pitch contests! Take the Floor was created to support innovative ideas from early-stage entrepreneurs and provide the opportunity to access start-up capital to those who compete and win.

While you're at it, save the dates for our third event, May 23 at GreenSpace Cowork (the site of our first event, photos below), and the final on June 27 at Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, both in Greenfield. At this session, three finalists take home $3,000 each as an investment in their business! 

Got an idea to pitch? The form to register is on our website. Take the Floor is part of our UPstart Program, which is made possible by a Massachusetts One Stop For Growth Urban Agenda grant.

Franklin First Federal Credit Union is a lead sponsor of the Take the Floor pitch contest.

Matt Allen pitches his business, Valley Youth Sports.

Melanie Skorski of sustain home + wares listens to a question from judge Jessye Deane of the Franklin County Chamber.

Shane Toomey describes his business idea, Kneaded Goods.

Jerome Williams from Gifted Peace and Nathaniel Hussey from Neatline Consulting chat after the competition.

Client Focus: Nutwood Farm

The patient path to a nutty crop

Nutwood Farm in Cummington is not your typical farm. In addition to growing tree nuts, mostly hazelnuts and blight-resistant chestnuts, and raising ducks and sheep, owners Seva and Kaylan Water follow regenerative agroforestry practices to restore soil health and sequester carbon, exploring longtime indigenous land management techniques.

The Waters recently worked with Massachusetts Agriculture Innovation Center (MAAIC) Financial Business Advisor Myra Marcellin and received a small grant from the Franklin County CDC to go on a nut processing adventure in upstate New York. Loaded down with three years’ worth of their stored harvested hazelnuts, they started the journey at Finger Lakes Nut Farm in Locke, NY, where they used a Turkish-made dehusking machine to remove the nuts’ dried husks. They then went to the New York Tree Crop Alliance (NYCTA)’s new processing center in Cortland, NY. There they used a Spanish-made commercial Borrell nutcracker to crack the nuts (about 100 pounds per hour), and then a custom-built vacuum aspirator designed in Wisconsin to separate the hazelnut kernels from the shells. (See photos of this machine on their Instagram feed.)

“The equipment is still relatively new to the operators and our batch was only the third batch of nuts to go through the process, so the team there was grateful for the opportunity to continue calibrating and refining their equipment and operations,” Seva reported.

“We all gathered valuable insight and a better understanding of ways to increase efficiency in the future,” she continued. “In the end, we achieved a 25% to 32% kernel-to-shell ratio, taking home about 130 pounds of whole hazelnut kernels. We also took home the mixed shell byproduct to experiment with using as animal fodder.”

Seva and Kaylan didn’t have enough time or the right set up to do a final hand sorting with a conveyor belt at the end of the day to remove uncracked nuts and shell fragments from the final product so they are doing this gradually by hand at home. However, “utilizing the commercial grade equipment has dramatically reduced our labor hours and allowed us to begin experimenting with potential value-added products made from our very own nuts!”

NYTCA is still in the process of obtaining food safety certification at the center, which they hope to have in place by the fall of 2024, according to Seva. This means that Nutwood Farm won’t be able to sell any of the nuts from this processing trip commercially. 

They are working toward getting their home kitchen certified for cottage food processing to make homemade nut butters. They have experimented with making roasted flavored hazelnuts, raw and toasted hazelnut butter, nut butter mixed with combinations of honey and cacao, chocolate covered hazelnut clusters, and chocolate-dipped hazelnut butter truffles. “They are all delicious,” Seva said, “the last one is particularly out of this world.”

“Thank you for supporting this vital next step for our farm!” 

We look forward to what’s to come from Nutwood Farm!

FCCDC Board and Staff Gather

Members of the FCCDC board and staff met at 10 Forward in Greenfield for our annual gathering. We ate (amazing food from Namaste), we drank (craft cocktails and mocktails from mixologist Lucas), we mingled—and some stayed to sing karaoke, which somehow just felt like a good idea on a Wednesday! We appreciate and were happy to support our lending clients Ang Buxton of 10 Forward and Swostik Rana Magar of Namaste.

From left: Board Member Tina Stevens; Credit Analyst Arthur Haselkorn; Finance and Administration Director Shannon Martineau and husband John Martineau; Tracy Vernon, and husband Lending Director Glen Ohlund (far right)

From left: Board Members Carey Baker and Max Fripp, MAAIC Director Tricia Wancko

From left: Curt Marcellin and wife MAAIC Financial Business Advisor Myra Marcellin, Board Member Rochelle Bellin, Administrative Assistant Scott LaRochelle

Scott and Executive Director John Waite

Black History Through Cuisine

We often say every month is Black History Month because Black history is American history. Some Black leaders feel ambivalent about February being Black History Month. For these two reasons, and because of staff schedules, we held our Black History Month lunch on March 1. Racial Justice Community Engagement Leader Traci Talbert (top left) and her mother Elaine Talbert (top right) fixed a soul food lunch, complete with fried chicken, collared greens, spiced sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, banana pudding, and peach cobbler.

Elaine explained how soul food is meaningful because of its origins among enslaved African people. Often the ingredients were cast off by white enslavers as waste food, and enslaved people found ways to make it taste good and sustain them during their forced labor. The group reflected on the significance of food in cultures. We appreciate the time, effort, culinary skills, and insights offered by Traci and her mom, Elaine!

MDAR Grant Period Open

The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources has released its grant programming for the coming season. Programs include the Farm Viability Enhancement Program, APR Improvement Program, Matching Enterprise Grants Program, Food Access Programs (Urban Agriculture Program and Food Ventures Program), Food Security Infrastructure Grant, and Stewardship and Restoration on APRs.

Applications are due at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, and there is an informational webinar being held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19 (webinar link here).

Three new grants also are on the way: Climate Smart Agriculture Program, Agriculture Food Safety Improvement Program, and the Cranberry Bog Renovation Grant Program.

Find more information on each program and learn how to apply at the link below.

MDAR grant programs

Client News: Sugarin' Breakfasts on Tap

North Hadley Sugar Shack's Sugarin' Breakfasts have started, so you know spring can't be far behind! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., you can get your fix of pancakes and real maple syrup—and stick around (haha) to witness the sap-boiling process.

North Hadley Sugar Shack is a recipient of an Emergency Farm Fund loan through our PVGrows Investment Fund. Learn more about becoming a borrower or an investor.

Client in the News

We've worked with Kitchen Garden Farm throughout their many years of success, most recently providing financial advising through our Massachusetts Agriculture Innovation Center, and are proud to see them turning a page, with new owners at the helm. We wish Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox all the best as they sell the operation to longtime employees Lilly Israel and Max Traunstein. Read the Greenfield Recorder story.

Recorder photo of Max, Lilly, Tim, and Caroline by Paul Franz. Photo bomb by Rigatoni.

Client News: Sub Rosa Opens

Congratulations to PVGrows Investment Fund clients Many Graces Farm & Design, who are officially opening their Northampton-based Botanical Lounge, Sub Rosa, this Friday, March 15.

Many Graces Farm & Design, a flower farm and floral design studio, has operated in the Connecticut River Valley since 2018. Owners Rebecca Maillet and Kel Komenda began renting two vacant storefronts at 33 West Street (Units A & B), located at the edge of the Smith College campus, in February 2023. In May of 2023, Many Graces was elected by the City of Northampton to become a recipient of a Massachusetts Vacant Storefront Program Grant, a program developed by the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Economic Development.

While Many Graces has been actively using Unit A as a production space for their floral design studio, Unit B has undergone a large renovation project to become Sub Rosa, the public-facing host to the community. In September 2023, Maillet and Komenda successfully completed an MGCC Biz-M-Power crowd-fundraising campaign to help cover some of the costs associated with equipment purchases and the build-out of Sub Rosa. Sub Rosa is described by the owners as “a container for beauty—a gathering place where a reverence for the Earth and the pursuit of pleasure collide.”

As queer business owners on a city block rich with local queer history, Maillet and Komenda said they chose to name the botanical lounge Sub Rosa as a nod to the lesbian housing cooperative that was formed in secrecy, or, “sub rosa,” in the late 1960s just around the corner from Sub Rosa’s location on West Street.

"Sub Rosa will serve as a physical reminder of the importance of sanctuary, particularly in this historical moment when the most anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in U.S. history is actively being passed into law (more than 500 discriminatory bills were introduced in 2023 and at the time of this press release, 478 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have already been introduced in 2024)," according to a press release from Many Graces.

Congratulations, Kel and Rebecca! 

Client News: Red Fire Farm's GoFundMe

After a barn fire on February 17, Red Fire Farm is hoping to raise $200,000 through a GoFundMe site. "We could use any help you can give towards the rebuilding efforts," Ryan and Sarah Voiland write on the site. "We hope to make something beautiful here again. No gift is too small and no gift is too big. Thank you so much for supporting our farm and all the ways you are part of our community."

Red Fire Farm has been a client of the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center for many years and we wish them all the best as they recover from this loss and rebuild.

Community Development

and Economic Justice

The New Yorker short documentary "The Barber of Little Rock" tells the story of Arlo Washington, the founder of Arkansas' only Black-owned CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution), People Trust. The organization gives grants and loans to community members struggling with covering basic expenses, as well as to business owners, predominantly Black, who have been denied credit from traditional banks. It's one man's fight to close the racial wealth gap, or as one person interviewed for the documentary put it, the racial wealth chasm. The 34-minute film was nominated for an Oscar but did not get the statuette.

Washington also owns a barber school and teaches skills beyond cutting and styling hair, working through deep trauma with his mostly Black students.

The film is an excellent reminder of why community development exists: to level a playing field that has for centuries advantaged white business owners and borrowers and systematically excluded Black and Brown entrepreneurs. In other words, to build economic justice.

Watch the short film

Partner Offerings and Updates

Classes and Workshops

CISA and Healthy Hampshire

The Winter section of online workshops, part of the Essential Skills for Starting, Growing, & Managing a Food Business Training Series, continues with three trainings focused on taking your business to the next level: 

  • Finding Funding for Farm and Food Businesses, (featuring our Executive Director John Waite), March 13, 5:30–7 p.m.
  • Connecting with Customers, March 20, 5:30–7 p.m.
  • Business Basics: Getting Started, March 26, 5:30–7 p.m.

If you self-identify as BIPOC or low-income, or if you need interpretation into English, you are eligible to get:

  • $30 - $60 stipend per workshop
  • Free one-on-one coaching
  • Translation of all materials and simultaneous interpretation during the training itself 


Seeds of Solidarity

Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Education Center in Orange hosts some great workshops for farmers and gardeners. Their first one of the season, No-Till Gardens and Farms: Healthy Soil, Heal Climate, is April 28, 1 to 4 p.m. You must register, sliding scale: $35 to $60. Proceeds will be donated to 1for3.org to support their school and community gardening programs for Palestinians in the West Bank. Details, registration information, and their full schedule of offerings, are online.

American Express and Main Street America

Backing Small Businesses grants support economically vulnerable and under-resourced small businesses with community reach. This year, eligible small business owners can apply for $10,000 grants for projects that grow or improve their businesses by building community, supporting their economic viability, or bolstering meaningful change. Applications will be accepted from 9 a.m. CT on March 14 through 11:59 p.m. CT on April 7. The application period will end once 5,000 applications have been submitted, even if that occurs before the deadline. Read more online.


Franklin County League of Women Voters Legislative Coffee

Join the League of Women Voters of Franklin County Saturday, April 6, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Greenfield Public Library for coffee, refreshments, and conversation with Franklin County legislators. This year they will be joined by state Rep. Natalie Blais, state Rep. Susannah Whipps, and state Sen. Jo Comerford. 

Love What We Do? Donate

Just a reminder that we gratefully accept donations to help us deliver services to low and moderate income entrepreneurs and small business owners! Every gift is appreciated, and donations over $1,000 are eligible for a 50% tax credit (so you can double your impact!).

You can set up a monthly, quarterly, yearly, or one-time donation securely on our website. Thank you to everyone of you who supports this work financially and in countless other ways!

Donate here today!

Free Information Sessions at the FCCDC

Grow Your Farm with Value-Added Food Products

We'll guide you through the food business roadmap!

Fourth Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

Upcoming virtual session is on March 27.

Sign Up

Grow Your Business

For businesses of all types at any stage

First Wednesdays at 2 p.m.

Upcoming virtual session is on April 3.

Sign Up

Financing Farms and Healthy Food Retail

Professional guidance on local food businesses

Second Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

Upcoming virtual session is on April 10.

Sign Up

Starting a Food Product Business

Got a dream product? We can help!

Third Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

Upcoming virtual session is on March 19.

Sign Up

Linguistic Bias

What's the harm?

Third Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Upcoming virtual session is on March 20.

Sign Up

Franklin County CDC | 324 Wells Street, Greenfield, MA 01301 | 413-774-7204

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