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Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Fund and Initiative Launches


The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is pleased to announce the creation of the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), a newly appointed board which will create and execute a fast-paced timeline to support investment in Vermont’s working landscape.

As stated in the Working Landscape Action Plan by The Vermont Working Landscape Partnership, a program of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, “Over 97 percent of Vermonters polled by the Council on the Future of Vermont (CFV) endorsed the value of the working landscape as key to our future.” Due to this poll, the 2012 Legislative session brought with it a focused commitment to Vermonter’s values by passing the Working Lands Enterprise initiative. The initiative is at the intersection of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development for the management and investment of $1 million into agricultural and forest based businesses.

Fifteen Vermonters have been appointed to the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB). The Board will direct the funds for strategic investments and be provided with administrative support by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. The board is charged with 1) the establishment of an application process for and awarding of grants and loans; (2) entering into performance contracts to provide investments and services; (3) identifying workforce needs and programs, strategic infrastructure and investment priorities; and (4) pursuing additional resources for grants and loans.

The WLEB had its first meeting on August 21, 2012, and is currently in the process of determining the funding criteria for the requests for proposals (RFP’s).  The Board has set an ambitious target date of November to announce the first round of RFP’s. Requests for proposals will target Vermont enterprises and non-profits (both public and private) in all stages of growth looking for mini-grants, infrastructure investments, or investments in technical assistance such as business planning and other services. Participation is encouraged from individuals who have not recently (or ever) received funding from the State of Vermont in the past. Participation is also encouraged from individuals who focus on innovation, such as building pilot programs that add value to farm and forest commodities.

Members include (click names for member photos):

Chuck Ross, Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Chair)

Ross has 16 years of experience as U.S. Senator Leahy’s State Director. Born in Burlington, Vermont, he graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Geography in 1978 and from the University of Washington with an M.A. in Geography in 1982.

Mike Snyder, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation

Snyder was appointed Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation by Gov. Shumlin in January 2011. He served 14 years as Chittenden County Forester, providing land stewardship assistance to private landowners and municipalities. He received both his Bachelor’s and Master of Science degrees in forestry from the University of Vermont.

Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Commerce and Community Development

Miller founded Otter Creek Brewery in 1990. Following the sale of Otter Creek, Miller became involved with Danforth Pewter and moved into the role of CEO. Miller earned his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1987 from Reed College. In 1999 he completed the Birthing of Giants Entrepreneurial Leadership program at MIT, in Boston.

Kurt E. Zschau, Forester/Vermont Real Estate Manager

Zschau works for Fountains America as a forester and real estate manager in the Vermont office. Zschau graduated from Sterling College with a degree in Natural Resources and the University of Maine with a degree in Forestry.

Emma Marvin, Butternut Mountain Farm

Marvin has worked on managing the retail operations, marketing, and special projects of the family business since 2004. Prior to joining the family business she spent several years working for an environmental educational non-profit in northern Vermont. Marvin is an honors graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Natural Resource Management.

Mike Rainville, Maple Landmark

Rainville is the founder and president of Maple Landmark Woodcraft, a wooden toy and gift company located in Middlebury, Vermont. Rainville graduated from Clarkson University in 1984.

Brian Kemp, Mountain Meadow Farms

Since age 10, Kemp has been working with animals. For seven years he worked at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm as a Horse Specialist. Following, Kemp worked at Monument Farms Dairy. Kemp now works as the Farm Manager at Mountain Meadows Beef Farm where he is fully responsible for the day to day management.

Amanda Ellis-Thurber, Lilac Ridge Farm

Since 1996, Ellis-Thurber has been a co-owner and operator of Lilac Ridge Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. Ellis-Thurber, a native of Cleveland, OH, graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.S. in Plant and Soil Science.

Kathleen Wanner, Executive Director of the Vermont Woodlands Association

Wanner is co-owner and vice president of Ghostwriters Communications, Inc., a marketing and communications firm in Rutland that serves the non-profit, natural and cultural resource sector in Vermont. Wanner graduated with a B.A. in English from Castleton State College and an M.S. in Technical Communications from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Eleanor Léger, Eden Ice Cider

Léger left a successful 20-year business career to start Eden Ice Cider Company with her husband in April of 2007. Léger earned a B.A. cum laude in Economics from Harvard and an M.B.A. with Distinction from The Wharton School.

Eric DeLuca, National Cooperative Business Association

DeLuca is the U.S. program manager for the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives through the National Cooperative Business Association. Previously, DeLuca was a program manager at Dialogos. He holds a B.A. from Brown University, and a CalArts M.F.A. in Integrated Media.

Steven P. Marsh, Community National Bank

In 2008, Marsh was named the President and Chief Executive Officer of Community National Bank. For the past year he has served as Chair of the Board. Marsh attended the University of Vermont (1996-1997).


EX Officio, non-voting members include:

Jo Bradley, Manager of VT Economic Development Authority

Bradley became Chief Executive Officer of the Vermont Economic Development Authority in February, 1997. She graduated with Honors from Johnson State College, earning a B.A., and from the Boston University School of Management with an M.B.A. in Finance. She also completed the Program for Senior Executives in state and local government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Ellen Kahler, Executive Director of VT Sustainable Jobs Fund

Kahler became the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) in late 2005. Prior to joining the VSJF, Kahler was the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington (1990-2002). She graduated from Bucknell University in Pa. with a B.A. in Political Science and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with an M.P.A.

Gus Seelig, Executive Director of VT Housing Conservation Board

Seelig was the founding Executive Director of Vermont Housing Conservation Board. As a direct result of Seelig’s leadership, Vermont now has some 325,000 acres of conserved land, including over 500 conserved farms, 9,800 units of permanently affordable housing and the infrastructure policies in place for the future.


Administration includes:

Colleen Leonard, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Leonard will be providing administrative oversight for both the Working Lands Enterprise and Vermont Agricultural & Forestry Product Development Boards.  Leonard worked for UVM Extension for 13 years with the state’s 4-H Livestock Programs, and as a Dairy Herd Management Specialist, before working for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Alex Ibey, Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Ibey is an Economic Development Specialist with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for the State of Vermont. He is excited to be a part of the Working Lands Initiative and looks forward to providing assistance to both Ag and Forest Sector businesses.

Noelle Sevoian, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Sevoian will be assisting both the Working Lands Enterprise and Vermont Agricultural & Forestry Product Development Boards. Sevoian is an Agricultural Development Coordinator with the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. This May, Sevoian completed her Masters of Science from UVM’s Community Development and Applied Economics program.


As stated by the in The Action Plan of the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership, “Vermonters desire a strong working landscape for all its scenic, cultural, economic, environmental, and recreational benefits.” And, Vermont’s land based economy has proven to be a driver for ongoing economic recovery.  The Working Lands Initiative aims to protect Vermont’s countryside for future generations by maintaining a balance between responsible land use practices and economic development within the agricultural and forest product sectors. The initiative aims for healthy, active, and sustainable working lands, just as much as it targets economic development.

Click here to read the full Act, “An act relating to preserving Vermont’s working landscape”

Click here to stay informed on the progress of the initiative at the Vermont Council on Rural Development partnership page

Click here to visit the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets site

Click here to visit the Vermont Department of Forestry, Parks and Recreation site

Click here to visit the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development site


For more information on the Working Lands Enterprise Board or how to apply for funds, please contact Noelle Sevoian at the Agency of Agriculture at 802.578.9072 or

About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment. Visit