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Help for women farmers

MONTPELIER - The Vermont Farm Women's Fund (VFWF) is offering its second round of grants to help women farmers improve their businesses or become more involved in agricultural policy development.

"We are interested in proposals from all quarters of the state and from farm women of all ages and backgrounds," says Mary Peabody, a member of the fund's advisory group. "The idea is to help women get the education they need to make their businesses thrive."

Women account for a growing share of Vermont farmers - approximately half of the state's 6500 farms reported having at least one woman operator, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture. Census data show that women often operate smaller farms and have lower farm earnings than their male counterparts.

Many women who start agricultural businesses come from a non-farming background, and therefore may have different educational needs than people who come from farming backgrounds.

The fund will make awards to two areas: farm business development funds will provide support for education and travel related to helping recipients improve some aspect of their business, while leadership development funds will provide support to help women farmers develop skills, access and opportunities to provide leadership in agricultural policy development. Additionally, applicants may request funds to help defray associatedtravel, childcare, and replacement labor.

VFWF awarded its first-ever round of scholarships and stipends to four Vermont farm women. The awards, totaling $2330, were made to: Julia Richmond, of Cornwall, who is using her award to hold an artificial insemination clinic for goat producers; Hannah Noel, of Highgate, to attend an organic agriculture conference; Judith Irving and her daughters, to explore the feasibility of new value-added products; and Lini Mazumdar, of South Londonderry, to launch a new ma.

Grants were capped at $750. Decisions will be announced by Dec. 1.

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