Vermonters in the forestry and agriculture sectors got a helping hand from the state on Tuesday. The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative awarded 16 local businesses a total of $750,000 in grant money at an event at Beaver Brook Farm in Marshfield, the last of nearly $1 million in the program’s available grant money.
The program provides financial and technical support for Vermont’s working landscape, which includes businesses, infrastructure and products in the agriculture and forestry sectors of the economy.
“When we make things, we make Vermont,” said Michael Snyder, commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
The initiative began after Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Act 142 into law last year.
Shumlin, who attended the event, said a local land-use economy enhances the quality of life for Vermonters and the economic potential of the state.
“We are a family that grows what we eat and that know that when we do it, we’ve got the best food chain in the country … that cuts what we build with and that knows that we therefore build extraordinary buildings, like this one, with the fruits of our labor,” Shumlin said inside the barn owned by Mike and Vivien Fritz.
Chuck Ross, secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, said the money is for businesses that shape the character of the state. He said the money is going to the people who exemplify the soul of the state and the values of its residents.
“Their work, their dirty hands, the one’s with the calluses, some of them missing a digit or two from a bad day, these are the folks who really shape the communities in which we live,” Ross said.
Vern Grubinger, a professor with the University of Vermont’s Extension Service, was a service provider grant recipient of $40,000. Grubinger said he will use the money to provide other Vermont growers with the technical assistance to help them store crops during the winter months.
“These funds are critical to us to leverage the capacity we have,” Grubinger said.
He said the money will benefit the entire agriculture sector in the state when growers purchase the equipment necessary to store their produce.
There was $1.175 million in the 2013 budget for the program. About $975,000 was allotted by the Working Lands Enterprise Board, which was created to administer the program.
In May, $220,000 was given to 20 grant recipients under the program’s first category, the enterprise investment area. Of the two remaining categories, the service provider area received $350,000, split among eight recipients, and the capital and infrastructure investment area received $400,000, split among the other eight.
Ross said that the program has been allocated $1.425 million for the 2014 fiscal year.
However, after receiving 240 applications for all three program categories, Ross said the board needs to take a break and reflect on new ways to efficiently distribute the funds.
“We’re kind of taking a deep breath right now,” he said.
Colleen Leonard, Working Lands Enterprise policy manager for the Ag agency, said the program is developing new ways to fund businesses with the grant money, such as an interest-free loan.
Leonard also said the board will consider ways to make the application process more efficient to reduce the overhead cost of distributing the money.
The grant recipients are:
Service Provider Grant Recipients
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
$20,000 for Professional Development for Farmers’ Market Managers
Patricia A. Hannaford Regional Technical School District
$55,000 for an Expansion of the Vermont Skilled Butchers and Meat Cutters Training Program
University of Vermont Extension Service
$39,302 for Poultry and Grape Sector Business Model Research & Development
University of Vermont Extension Service
Vern Grubinger and Chris Callahan
$40,000 to Increase Supply and Quality of “Local” Vegetable Storage
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
$100,000 to Expand Business Assistance to Agricultural Infrastructure and Forestry Sectors
Vermont Meat and Poultry Processors’ Association
$15,000 to Enhance Innovation in Vermont’s Meat Processing Industry
Vermont Solid Waste District Managers Association
$55,000 for Technical Planning Services for Food Scrap Composting
Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association
Erin Sheridan Lorentz
$48,000 for Workforce Development for the Secondary Wood Manufacturing Industry
Capital and Infrastructure Investment Recipients
A. McGovern Logging and Sawmilling
$20,000 for Increasing Volume of Custom Milled Wood Products through Portable Sawmill Upgrades
Black River Produce/ Black River Meats
$50,000 to Build Volume and Value for Vermont Livestock Producers in New Regional Meat Markets
$75,000 to Expand Vermont’s Cider Apple Supply Chain
Jasper Hill Farm
Andy and Mateo Kehler
$50,000 for a Cheese Microbiology Lab to Develop “Artisanal Cultures” to Promote Product Quality and Safety for Vermont Producers
Vermont Refrigerated Storage
$43,369 for Increasing Storage Capacity for Farms, Distributers and Processors with the Construction of a 300-Pallet Freezer
Vermont Wood Pellet Company
$38,153 to Increase Pellet Mill Efficiency and Quality through Mill Upgrades
Vermont Wood Studios
Peggy and Ken Farabaugh
$100,000 to Expand Markets of Vermont Made Furniture by Building a Destination Shopping Experience in Southeastern Vermont
Vermont Woodworking School
$50,000 for an Incubator Space for Emerging Woodworking Businesses