CEFS’ NC Growing Together (NCGT) initiative and the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) are working together to address a challenge for small and medium-scale farmers: lack of access to on-farm cold storage. The ability to quickly cool produce to the appropriate temperature is critical to achieving high product quality and maximizing shelf life.  (For more NCGT information and resources on postharvest handling, please see the NCGT website.) For farmers seeking to expand their businesses or sell into wholesale markets, it can be the key to success.

“Growers and buyers agree that on-farm cold storage is a necessity to sell into mainstream markets like grocery retail and food service,” says NCGT Project Manager Rebecca Dunning. “Having cold storage can mean getting in the door to a new buyer, and having a longer shelf-life for your product is positive regardless of where a grower sells.”

Cold storage at TRACTOR Food and Farms.

Even though on-farm cold storage is critical, many farmers lack the capital to build or purchase a unit, and it can be difficult to get a loan because financers don’t want to use a cold-storage unit as collateral.  Through NCGT and NCIF’s partnership, farmers can now apply for funds to build or purchase a unit, with 20% of the total subsidized by a grant from NCGT and the remaining 80% financed through a low-interest loan from NCIF.  For more information please see this two-pager.

NCIF, the green business lending arm of The Conservation Fund, finances and advises rural and natural resource-based small businesses that can’t access traditional capital sources.  Supporting local food systems and low-resource farmers are strategic priorities for NCIF, meaning the Fund offers both financing as well as targeted grants and technical assistance to help the sector grow.

“We’re committed to helping farmers diversify their production and participate in North Carolina’s local food system and all the opportunities that presents.  Cold storage is critical to bringing high value products to market,” says Rick Larson, Senior Vice President and Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Natural Capital Investment Fund.  “In our work, partnering is critical, and we really value the deep knowledge about local food systems and farmers’ needs that NCGT brings.  NCGT’s training and dedicated grant funding for cold storage are the key to making this program succeed.”

NCGT’s cold storage resources include the Best Practices for On-Farm Cold Storage technical assistance training webinar and the On-Farm Infrastructure Toolkit (co-developed with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association).

Applications will be considered for produce, meat, and value-added cooling and storage uses.  Download the application here.  For more information please see this two-pager.

For general inquiries or to get started, please contact T.F. Congleton, NCIF’s Eastern NC Business Lender at (252) 916-5211 or tcongleton@conservationfund.org; Rick Larson, NCIF’s Senior Vice President at (919) 951-0113 or rlarson@conservationfund.org; or NCGT Project Manager Rebecca Dunning, 919-389-2220 rebecca_dunning@ncsu.edu.