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Working Lands Summit Shows Return on Investment


RANDOLPH, VT -- Over 350 Vermonters gathered at Vermont Technical College on Tuesday for a day of celebration, learning, and reporting on the results of the Working Lands Enterprise Fund investments. The Future of Vermont's Working Landscape Summit featured approximately 90 panelists and speakers, and all agreed that Vermont's economic future largely depends on a thriving working landscape.

Chris Graff's closing remarks were heartfelt and clear: "Thank you. You give me hope. You are a group of people with a vision. You are doing something very big and very hard."

Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development and convener of the conference outlined the group's goal, stating, "We have a vision for transformational public investment. We want to see a $15 million commitment over the next several years."

The day was full of intense conversations in breakout panels, and several themes emerged. These themes were reported back by the panel moderators, and they included summaries such as, "We're better together;" "Marketing works;" and "State investment is important."

House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morrisville) was the last speaker of the day. After driving through some weather to make it to the conference, he caught the energy of the Summit quickly, and summed up the day's sentiments, saying, "If we don't make investments, we won't get a return, and Vermont won't be the place we all want it to be without those investments."

The key takeaways from the Summit were that The Working Lands Enterprise Fund:

  • Creates JOBS in Working Lands Enterprises
  • Keeps YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS in Vermont
  • Builds NEW MARKETS for value-added products
  • Increases CAPACITY for in-state production
  • Leverages MORE INVESTMENT for growing enterprises

The day also featured a photo exhibit of thirteen of the Working Lands Enterprise Fund grantees, and the Vermont Council on Rural Development presented its Community Leadership Award to Orly Munzing of Strolling of the Heifers.

A compilation of the tweets from the day can be found here:

A short video featuring Working Lands Enterprise Fund recipients and the photos from the exhibit can be found here: