The competition seeks to encourage new and expanding farm, food and forestry business development throughout Vermont.
All finalists will have access to free assistance from the Vermont Small Business Development Centers or Southeast Vermont Community Action in preparing their final business plan and presentations.
In this year's contest, new and existing businesses will compete in separate categories, and there is a student division as well.
Existing businesses are defined as those who have operated for six months or more and have revenue up to $500,000. New businesses are in the early concept stage or in operation for less than six months, with minimal revenue.
The student category is open to any student or team of students enrolled at a Vermont college-level institution.
All entries must involve some aspect of farming, forestry, food processing, food distribution, food packaging or food retailing (including restaurants).
Up to five finalists will be selected in the New and Existing categories, and four finalists in the Student category. All finalists who complete the application process will receive a share of the prize money.
In each of the New and Existing categories, there is a $10,000 first prize, $8,000 second prize and $5,000 third prize, with two runner-up awards of $1,500. In the student category, first prize is $4,000, second prize $2,000, and there are two runner-up awards of $1,000.
Finalists in the 2012 competitions organized by Strolling of the Heifers and Vermont Technical College are not eligible to compete in 2013, but may return to the competition in future years. Contestants in 2012 who were not selected as finalists are invited to apply, as are all 2011 contestants.
Since the intent of the competition is to help create and retain jobs, foster economic growth, and improve the quality of life in Vermont, contest entries will be reviewed and judged based on such criteria as likelihood of success and job creation (direct or indirect).
To enter, contestants should register online at www.strollingoftheheifers.com (event registration menu tab). Full rules and information will be found at that site as well.
After registering, contestants must attend a Feb. 5 orientation workshop, either in person or an interactive video presentation provided via Vermont Interactive Technologies, which will be available in multiple locations through out the state. They will then prepare a three-page business prospectus due March 8.
Finalists will then prepare detailed business plans, due May 22, and will make presentations to the judges at Marlboro College Graduate Center in Brattleboro on the morning of June 5. An awards ceremony will take place later that day at Marlboro Grad Center.
To register or find out more about Strolling of the Heifers, visit www.strollingoftheheifers.com. To find out more about Vermont Technical College, visit www.vtc.edu.