The 2012 Legislative session brought with it a renewed commitment to Vermonter’s values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, Act 142 (http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT142.pdf), for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forestry based businesses. Over 97 percent of Vermonters value the Working Landscape. Approximately 20 percent of Vermont’s land is used for agricultural purposes and 75 percent as forestry. The backbone of Vermont’s “working landscape” is the economic viability of the agriculture and forestry based businesses. It is Vemont’s working landscape that allows us to be a key economic engine within the northeast metropolitan markets of the regional food system. For more information and to apply for grants, visit the WLEI website managed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture at workinglands.vermont.gov. Read the 2014 WLEB Annual Report for details on funded projects and program stats.
Some of the goals of the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, as outlined in the Findings section of Act 142, are to;
- Stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation;
- Increase the value of Vermont’s raw and value-added products through the development of in-state and export markets;
- Attract a new generation of entrepreneurs to Vermont’s farm, food system, forest, and value-added chain by facilitating more affordable access to the working landscape; and
- Increase the amount of state investment in working lands enterprises, particularly when it leverages private and philanthropic funds.
Act 142 created the Working Lands Enterprise Fund and the Working Lands Enterprise Board.
The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB)
The WLEB is made up of private sector members throughout the supply chains of agriculture and forestry, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Housing Conservation Board, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
The Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF)
The Working Lands Enterprise Fund demonstrates the state’s investment in the working lands enterprise economy. The fund is directed by the WLEB and is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. The funding categories are identified by the Vermont legislature in Act 142 and defined by the WLEB. The WLEB will announce the RFP's (Request for Proposals) to apply for grants from the fund annually in November. The amount of funds in each category will be determined by the WLEB based on the response and need from applicants. The three categories for funding under the initiative include:
- Agriculture & Forestry: Enterprise Investments
($3,000-$15,000 grants, Required Minimum 25% cash match of grant amount requested)
Agriculture and Forestry Enterprise Investments for new or growing businesses, including but not limited to non-profits, Partnerships, Limited Liability Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Cooperatives, Corporations, S Corporations, L3Cs, and B Corporations and Farm and/or Forest landowners that are involved in the production of agriculture and/or forest related products. Investment focus areas will include business and technical assistance and infrastructure development.
- Agriculture & Forestry: Working Lands Service Provider Grants
($10,000 - $100,000 grants, Required Minimum 50% cash and in-kind match of grant amount requested)
Agriculture and Forestry Service Provider Grants for non-profit organizations, associations, colleges or universities, private sector or partnership groups. Grants are available for training and/or production related technical assistance, needs assessments/studies of baseline data critical to sector development, professional and organizational development, product research services, marketing assistance, market development, business and financial planning, access to capital, regulatory and business development assistance, and addressing workforce development needs.
- Agriculture & Forestry: Capital and Infrastructure Investments
($15,000 - $100,000 grants, Required Minimum 1:1 Match (in-kind and at least 50% cash) of grant amount requested)
Infrastructure investment grants for agricultural and/or forestry based businesses (including farm and forest landowners) and non-profit organizations (e.g., food hubs, farmers’ markets, shared processing facilities), for capital investments that will increase operational capacity and have an impact on their industry beyond their immediate business. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to, creative diversification projects; access to land (acquisition or easements); building and equipment costs for value-added manufacturing (e.g., processing, storage, distribution); long-term working capital, specialized personnel, information technology; farm or forest based renewable energy business expansion; and other collaborative ventures that build capacity within the supply chain, open new markets, and/or create a replicable, innovative model.
For More Information
Colleen Leonard, Agricultural Policy Administrator, Working Lands
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Noelle Sevoian, Agricultural Development Coordinator, Working Lands
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
Visit workinglands.vermont.gov for links to the applications and updates about the fund.