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Alabama startup on path toward growth thanks to $50,000 loan from nonprofit

What started as a small organic farm specializing in vegetables and herbs is now on a path toward continued growth thanks to Neighborhood Concepts (NCI).

Harvest Roots, which built a reputation producing sauerkraut for farmers markets, now focuses on kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and even vinegar for customers in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mentone, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and beyond.

The Mentone fermentation startup is dedicated to using local, sustainably-grown vegetables and will source nearly 25,000 pounds of area produce in 2016 alone.

“We always produced sauerkraut for our farmers market table and we noticed a big demand for our kraut,” said co-owner Lindsay Whiteaker. “We followed that interest and customer demand and here we are today.”

Harvest Roots recently closed on a $50,000 loan from NCI’s North Alabama Revolving Loan Fund (NARLF), a subsidiary that provides microloans as small as $2,500 to as large as $50,000 to north Alabama startups and small businesses. Whiteaker and her business partner, Pete Halupka, learned about the program from their mentors and close friends, Lee McBride and Karen Wynne.

Whiteaker said Harvest Roots’ infrastructure is funded with weekly profits from its wholesale and direct markets. While this process has worked for a couple of years, she said they need additional funds to meet future demand.

The $50,000 loan from the NARLF’s Hiatt Fund will help Harvest Roots expand its kitchen to more than four times its previous size and purchase much-needed equipment, including a refrigerated delivery van, new industrial food processor, bottler and labeler.

“We also will now have working capital as well as a budget for hiring help,” Whiteaker said. “Until now, it’s been the sweat and labor of just Pete and I and we cannot keep up any longer because of the demand. This is good news!”

NCI’s mission is to “strengthen neighborhoods through the provision of affordable housing and fostering of economic opportunities.” To make loans in NCI’s 11-county footprint, the NARLF launched in late 2012 using $300,000 in seed money from the Food Bank of North Alabama.

Click here to read the entire article posted August 9, 2016 – By Lucy Berry |

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