A few weeks ago, the Working Lands Coalition hosted a celebration to honor the ten-year anniversary of the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative – a program dedicated to supporting farm and forest businesses across Vermont. The celebration, held at the State House with food and live music, saw an overflow crowd of founders, friends, and champions who came together to celebrate this incredible milestone for Vermont’s landscape.
Now that we have reached ten years of the Working Lands Initiative, we would be remiss if we didn’t reflect on the success of the initiative.
Vermont’s working lands are stewarded by hard-working, incredible people. Some have worked the land in Vermont for generations, and some are new arrivals. We depend on the food and resources they produce – and the last several years have reinforced how vital their work is for our society.
Creation of 500+ New Jobs
Grant recipients over the last ten years have built innovative projects and expansions for their businesses, and many have developed new employment opportunities within the farm and forest industry across Vermont.
24,000+ Acres of Vermont’s Land
Sustaining Vermont’s landscape is a top priority for people of all backgrounds across Vermont. Over the past 10 years, Working Lands grants have impacted more than 24,000 acres of farmland and forest.
300+ Projects in all 14 Counties in Vermont
From Bennington County to Essex County and Grand Isle County to Windham County, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative has funded 319 projects over the past 10 years that have touched every county of Vermont.
Generated nearly $12 Million in Direct Investments and more than $55 Million in New Economic Activity
Thanks to the Governor, the Legislature, the Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets, the Agency of Commerce, the Agency of Natural Resources, and the Department of Forest, Parks, & Rec, nearly $12 million has been invested in farm and forest businesses across the state with an additional $22 million in matching funds. That initial investment has generated nearly $5 of new economic activity for every $1 invested. Grantees produce a wide-range of products for sale within Vermont and beyond. Producers like Hillside Homestead selling raw milk cheese, Northeast Kingdom Processing processing local meat, Gagnon Lumber operating a sawmill, and many others over the last ten years.
Grantees are taking operations to the next level by developing innovative advancements for their production process and energy efficiencies. In recent years, Full Belly Farm has increased their cold storage capacity, Sustainable Timber Investment Exchange added a ceiling prototype for mass timber, and Thornhill Farm is improving the grain drying process, just to name a few.
Strong Coalition Team
VCRD has been leading the Working Lands Coalition for over a decade, to encourage legislators to prioritize investment in our farm and forest products enterprises each year. The Working Lands Coalition includes 16 statewide partner organizations that represent a wide variety of interests, all united in the commitment to supporting our working lands enterprises to keep our rural economy strong.
Statewide Support Through the Working Lands Partnership
Throughout Vermont, the Working Lands Initiative has brought together a non-partisan and broad-based partnership to support local agriculture and forestry, grow and attract farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserve Vermont’s Working Landscape far into the future. The Working Lands Partnership includes over 1,000 individuals and partner organizations – and continues to grow – who have signed on to add their voice, stay informed, and help shape the future for Vermont’s Working Lands.
The Power of Collaboration
The original sponsors of the bill that led to public investment into the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative included a legislator from each political persuasion. That group, along with hundreds of champions of all political stripes in and out of the Legislature not only show broad support for the program, they demonstrate the power of non-partisan collaboration.
New Investments Every Year
The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative provides a platform for additional investments to the Working Lands economy when available. This year, the Governor and his team have included an additional $3 million in one-time funding for the program.