It’s around this time of year when people start counting the things they are thankful for: family, friends, and health, so today at VCRD we’d like to share the top five reasons that we find ourselves thankful for rural Vermont.
Vermont is made up of 252 towns and cities – each with a unique sense of community, ideas, and natural beauty that make it a special place to live.
Through a variety of our programs, we see communities across Vermont that have taken tremendous strides to build a better future for themselves and those around them. This past year through our Community Visit Program, we worked in Milton, Highgate, Brownington, Concord, and have recently started the process in Putney. We have seen ideas turn into action, such as bringing a store into town, cleaning and improving certain parts of town, expanding community events, improving road safety, boosting local food access, advancing career training, expanding a community center, and so much more. Each of these priorities are creating new opportunities for people, and the foundation for a stronger Vermont.
Vermont is full of beautiful landscapes – and agricultural lands, forests, and other natural resources upon which our communities are built. Whether you are hiking, hunting, farming, or enjoying a farm-to-plate dinner at a local restaurant, you are taking in the working lands of our great state.
Part of our work at VCRD is facilitating a non-partisan and broad-based partnership to support Vermont’s working landscape and the incredible farmers and foresters that we depend on. The Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF) supports the investment in the working lands enterprise economy and is administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Each year, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund supports grants to farm and forest enterprises in Vermont to encourage diversification, thoughtful value-added production opportunities, supply-chain investments, and the sustainability of the working lands across our rural communities.
As we navigate our way through communities to provide resources and facilitation to advance priorities and help build the future of Vermont, we continue to be amazed by all of the local leaders that step up and take action within their community.
Our Vermont Community Leadership Network (VCLN) provides a space for motivated individuals to build connections, skills, and confidence to make positive changes. VCLN was launched to support local leaders as they build projects, organizations, and systems that serve their communities.
VCRD also serves as a neutral facilitator for Vermont’s Working Communities Challenge (WCC), supporting the eight teams in Vermont over the next three years. WCC was originally launched in 2019 in partnership with the State of Vermont and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and advances local collaborative efforts that build strong, healthy economies and communities in Vermont. Each of the eight WCC teams is filled with local leaders doing groundbreaking work in over 60% of Vermont’s towns and cities. These leaders are working on systems-change approaches to address housing, transportation, childcare, the benefits cliff, racial equity, resource navigation, workforce development, and other interconnected systems.
Statewide and local leaders also continue to lead change through The Vermont Proposition. The Proposition is a set of transformational goals designed to optimize the best of Vermont at mid-century – for our economy, environment, communities, and people. VCRD convenes and facilitates the Future of Vermont Action Team – a group of 21 leaders who are guiding strategy efforts toward further defining and implementing key elements of the Proposition focused around youth, working & natural lands, and a “scorecard” showing progress or challenges across the Proposition’s ten issue areas.
Clean Energy & Air
As we step outside our homes and take a deep breath, we are able to breathe clean air – something often overlooked when counting our reasons to be thankful for Vermont. Our Climate Economy Initiative is designed to help communities and local leaders create and implement priority actions at the community level that help save money, conserve energy, improve transportation systems or renewable energy generation, or spark entrepreneurship and economic progress.
Three pillar programs are included within the Climate Economy Initiative:
- Climate Catalysts Innovation Fund supports local innovators in developing solutions that move Vermont closer to its climate and energy goals
- Climate Catalyst Leadership Program convenes yearly cohorts of local leaders from Vermont communities focused on building peer connections, strengthening leadership skills, and providing project development support
- Climate Economy Resilient Communities offers technical assistance and support to communities working on local climate action solutions.
Through the work of the Climate Economy Initiative, VCRD supports local leaders working to ensure that Vermont continues to offer the tremendous, beautiful environment that we’ve all enjoyed for future generations.
You Can Make An Impact
Whether local leaders are involved in a Community Visit process, the Working Lands Initiative, the Vermont Community Leadership Network, or serving one of the Working Communities Challenge teams, joining Partnership for the Future of Vermont for The Vermont Proposition, the Climate Economy Initiative, or any of the other various efforts happening in your communities, they are making incredible impacts to build an even better future for Vermont.
Here at VCRD, we work to unleash the power of Vermonters, and this year (and every year) we find ourselves so thankful to see this as we work with and meet new leaders each and every day.