GREENFIELD — Approaching its seventh anniversary in October, the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund reworked its community investment offerings to invite more potential investors.

The new social impact pool has a lowered investment threshold of $500 – down from $1,000 – with up to 2% interest and a three-year investment term, rather than the initial five- or five-year term offerings. eight years. These investments go to the Pioneer Valley Grows investment fund, and the money is then used to support local businesses of farmers and food entrepreneurs.

More than 80 investors have raised $2.2 million for 55 farms and food system businesses through the first seven years of operation of the Pioneer Valley Grows investment fund, and senior program director Rebecca Busansky said the The organization’s new goal was to raise $5 million by inviting more people to participate. with lower thresholds. The Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund is a program administered by the Greenfield-based Franklin County Community Development Corporation.

“Investing is a big word for a lot of people,” Busansky said. “They don’t see themselves as an investor and we hope to reach more people who buy local, who are CSA (community supported agriculture) members. … It’s just a whole different way to invest.

Businesses financed by the investment fund include Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, Many Graces Farm in Hadley, Mycoterra Farm in South Deerfield and Real Pickles in Greenfield.

Deb Habib, current investor and Orange-based Seeds of Solidarity farmer, said working with the investment fund has been a positive experience for new investors.

“The PVGrows investment fund has made everyone feel like they can invest in our local food system,” Habib said in a press release. “As beginning farmers and investors without significant funds, my partner and I continue to feel how important this is, and it seems more proactive than a CD or savings account.”

With the lowered threshold and shorter investment term, Busansky said the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund’s goal of enabling more people to get involved in community investing is possible. Additional investors, she added, can help ensure that more local food systems can receive the funding they need to grow their businesses.

“We built this fund around the idea of ​​democratizing capital,” Busansky said. “We think it’s important to make it accessible to more people.”

The process is simple: if someone is interested in investing, they can complete the Social Impact Pool Investment Agreement form and mail it back with a check. Once the Pioneer Valley Grows investment fund secures the investment, it is added to the community fund, pending a local food company or farm to apply for funding. These requests are then reviewed by the Fund’s Advisory Committee, which “ensures loan applicants are a good fit for the assignment, identifies technical assistance needs” and provides these services as needed, according to the fund’s website. funds.

All Massachusetts residents are eligible to participate in the investment fund, as well as people living in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Investing in local businesses carries the same risks that people associate with investing on Wall Street. With the lower threshold, Busansky said wary investors can put their foot in the door at a lower price and see how the experience is before choosing to invest more money in the process.

Once funding is reviewed and approved, community investors share the interest, which is paid annually, and pro-rated if they invest mid-year.

“There are definitely risks involved,” Busansky said, but the community impacts are tangible, unlike investing in a large corporation. “There is meaning behind it. You have all the social impact of helping our local farms or our food system.

For those interested in learning more about the Pioneer Valley Grows investment fund, the program will host two virtual information sessions. The first will take place Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. and will feature Dave Schrier, co-owner of the Daily Operation restaurant in Easthampton, who borrowed from the investment fund. The other briefing on Monday, October 3 from 5-6 p.m. will feature Kel Komenda of Many Graces Farm in Hadley.

Busansky said the purpose of these events is to introduce people to the investment fund and also give “existing investors a chance to talk about why they invest.”

An in-person event took place at Crimson & Clover Farm in Florence, where owner Nate Frigard said his use of a bridge loan from the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund helped the farm secure a food security infrastructure grant of Massachusetts to build an all-weather washing machine. and packing area.

“Getting this grant was life changing,” Frigard said, “and getting a bridge loan from PVGrows and the FCCDC (Franklin County Community Development Corporation) made me feel like anything was possible.”

Interested individuals are encouraged to RSVP for an information session by visiting pvgrows.net.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.