Financing good food enterprises
Alex Linkow ( MS/MBA, 11 )
Fair Food Fund Program Director, Fair Food Network
Presenting our Master’s Project to the monks of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia
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In late 2010, the leadership of Fair Food Network, a national nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, realized there was a critical gap in building a more sustainable food system. Having proven himself during two summers interning with the organization, Linkow was called on to help provide the solution. In Linkow’s words, “A lot of attention is focused on direct-to-consumer markets such as CSAs or farmers markets. However, there is an overlooked sector of the food system, that we call the missing middle.” This new wave of middle-of-the-supply-chain businesses utilize the food farms produce, either distributing it to customers, processing it for resale, or using it as ingredients to produce new products.
After some market research, Linkow and the Fair Food Network team realized in order to support farm viability in the Northeast, there needed to be investment in the infrastructure that connects farms with consumers. As a result, Linkow launched, and now manages, the Network’s Fair Food Fund, a program to “provide financing and business assistance to good food enterprises that connect small and mid-sized farms with consumers hungry for local, sustainably grown food.”
Only four years old, the program has provided over $2 million of financing to eight enterprises, funded more than 40 consulting projects, hosted three “boot camps” for food system entrepreneurs, and raised over $6 million in committed funds. Here’s a sample of the businesses they’ve supported:
- Radicle Farm Company – radfarm.co – $200K Investment – Launched in Newark, New Jersey in 2014, Radicle Farm Company grows and distributes “living salads” in recyclable containers that continue producing fresh greens for up to two weeks. Radicle has also launched a “cut greens” product line.
- Dahlicious – dahlicious.com – $250K Investment – Founded in 2007, Dahlicious makes lassi, an Indian style drinkable yogurt, prepared with milk sourced from New England grassfed dairies.
- Downeast Dayboat – downeastdayboat.com – Consulting Corps – Marketing and distribution of day boat scallops to high end chefs and consumers.
- Thirty Acre Farm – thirtyacrefarm.com – Business Boot Camp – A farm and fermented food producer.
The full breadth of Linkow’s impact is yet to be seen as he continues to help food system entrepreneurs find a place for both profit and sustainability in the food system.