December 19, 2012 ~ The Vermont Council on Rural Development announced today that a new leadership team has formed to advance Vermont’s working landscape by supporting state investments through the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) established by the Legislature in 2012.
The WLEB has approximately $1,000,000 available to seed small farm and forest businesses, help them grow, and develop infrastructure that will leverage production, marketing, transportation and other aspects of the farm and forest economy. WLEB funding is designed to strengthen the economic foundation of Vermont’s working landscape.
The Working Lands Coalition has shared a platform calling on the Governor and Legislature to invest $5,000,000 annually for the next three years in farm and forest enterprise development.
Members of the Coalition include the VT Land Trust, The Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Green Mountain Dairy Farmers Cooperative Association, NOFA Vermont, Preservation Trust of Vermont, Shelburne Farms, Riverledge Foundation, the Vermont Farm Bureau, the Vermont Association of Planning and Development Agencies, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association, the Woodstock Foundation, the Vermont Woodlands Association, and the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
The Coalition rose from the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership made up of over 600 individuals and 220 organizations who supported legislation to build the WLEB structure and its appropriation. The Coalition formalizes a leadership structure for the partnership and unites leading organizations for the promotional work ahead.
According to Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development which staffs the Coalition effort, “We’ve made tremendous progress in bringing the farm and forest sectors together and framing the Working Landscape effort as a priority for state policy and investment. But this can’t be seen as an experiment—we need to build consistent and ongoing funding to support innovative new businesses in the farm and forest sector.” Coalition Co-chair, Brent Karner from Clear Lake Furniture and the VT Wood Manufacturer’s Association points to the importance of WLEB investments in the expansion of the forest products industry from the ground up: “It affects my business directly. I would rather work from the land here; it’s valuable to my business and to the VT brand to promote Vermont wood.” Ellen Kahler, Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund which leads Vermont’s Farm to Plate project points out that, “These funds will help implement the Farm to Plate strategic plan by investing in farm and food businesses that are expanding businesses and creating jobs.”
WLEB is currently taking applications to support startups, small businesses, innovative ideas, growing businesses and private sector infrastructure that will leverage clusters of businesses that will benefit and grow because of new opportunities it provides. Businesses interested in applying for funds, or learning more about the opportunity should go to workinglands.vermont.gov or contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (985-9072).
The Coalition released a 2013 Platform statement that points to WLEB as a vehicle to advance innovation in private sector businesses that conserve the land in practice, build resilience and prosperity for rural communities, and serve as cornerstone to state efforts to advance the green economy. This platform, the legislation, lists of partners and other information, as well as the opportunity to join the partnership, are available at www.vtworkinglands.org.