$6 million gift will accelerate the future of farming in Vermont

Bear Roots Farm (above) and Might Food Farm (below) were participants in VLT’s Farmland Access Program, whereby VLT connects retiring farmers to new buyers, often by purchasing, conserving, and selling the land to new farmers at its lower conserved value. This leadership gift enables VLT to accelerate this program and support other successful farm transfers. Bear Roots Farm, credit Paul E. Richardson

High Meadows Fund, Vermont Community Foundation, and Vermont Land Trust Leadership Gift Will Also Advance Climate Solutions and Ecological Health

Vermont Business Magazine The High Meadows Fund, the Vermont Community Foundation, and the Vermont Land Trust today announced a $6 million leadership gift to diversify farm ownership, accelerate the economic viability of farming, and advance natural climate solutions and ecological health on Vermont farms.

$2 million of this gift will seed the creation of a new fund to expand land ownership and access among people who have been historically marginalized or oppressed based on their race or ethnicity. This is the largest gift of its kind ever made in Vermont.

“Words cannot express the joy and hope we feel around the potential of this gift to shape a vibrant future for Vermont’s farming. Like hundreds of farming families in Vermont, we know first-hand the challenge of holding land and maintaining what we have,” said Lydia Clemmons, President and Executive Director of the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte.

“A gift of this kind could help all of us, particularly those who have been historically marginalized or oppressed,” Clemmons continued. “My parents purchased our farm nearly 60 years ago with a vision of holding onto the land—at all costs—for future generations. They are both 98 years old now. Over the course of their lifetimes, African-Americans have lost 93% of their land assets in the United States. The historic Clemmons farm is one of the few Black-owned farms remaining in the state and nation. We look forward to joining hands with others to support the important work ahead.”

The Vermont Land Trust, alongside a diverse group of farmers and community leaders, is convening discussions to design and grow the $2 million fund to expand land ownership and access. The fund’s governance, structure, and decision-making will be determined by Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color in Vermont. More information about this project will be available in early 2022.

The remaining $4 million will expand Vermont Land Trust’s work to put hundreds of farmers onto the land operating successful businesses over the next 10 years. This impactful gift comes at a turning point for agriculture in Vermont.

“Agriculture is central to our identity and sense of place. Today, it is under threat. The climate crisis, demographic change, and broader economics require us to act boldly and change the trajectory of decline,” said Nick Richardson, President & CEO of the Vermont Land Trust. “Now is the moment to help the next generation of farmers buy land and grow farm enterprises. This gift, and decades-long partnership with the High Meadows Fund, enables us to take a great leap forward in protecting and strengthening agriculture in Vermont.”

“The gift is part of the transition of the High Meadows Fund, from a relatively standalone grantmaking entity under the Vermont Community Foundation to a grantmaking initiative within the Foundation. It’s time to do more and to do it in a different way,” said Gaye Symington, President of the High Meadows Fund. “An accelerated pace of investment will have a lasting impact on the future of Vermont’s agricultural economy, rural communities, and food system. It’s critical to give greater control to those who have been marginalized by traditional approaches to land ownership.”

Dan Smith, president and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation, adds “Communities where anyone willing to commit to the working landscape—regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic background—has a pathway to steward the land without fear of discrimination and isolation are key to closing the opportunity gap in Vermont and fostering a sense of belonging for all Vermonters. We are a rural state where the working landscape has long been central to our economic vitality. To keep that legacy alive and our rural communities vibrant, we need to create conditions that attract, support, and retain a diverse new generation of farmers running a range of successful and sustainable enterprises. This remarkable gift advances that reality.”

To learn more about the High Meadows Fund’s gift to the Vermont Land Trust, read Gaye Symington’s recent blog post: vermontcf.org/highmeadows-gift-announcement.

Mighty Food Farm, credit Lisa Cueman

About the Vermont Land Trust

The Vermont Land Trust is a statewide, member-supported, nonprofit land conservation organization. Since 1977, the Vermont Land Trust has protected more than 2,000 parcels of land covering over 600,000 acres. This includes more than 900 working farms and farmland parcels, hundreds of thousands of acres of productive forestland, and numerous parcels of community lands. For more information, visit www.vlt.org.

About the High Meadows Fund

The High Meadows Fund provides grants and staff resources that promote vibrant communities and a healthy natural environment while encouraging long term economic vitality in Vermont. It was founded in 2004 as a Supporting Organization of the Vermont Community Foundation and is currently in transition to becoming a fully integrated fund within VCF with the same mission.

About the Vermont Community Foundation

The Vermont Community Foundation inspires giving and brings people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont. A family of hundreds of funds and foundations, we provide the advice, investment vehicles, and back-office expertise that make it easy for the people who care about Vermont to find and fund the causes they love.

The heart of the Community Foundation’s work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. We are aligning our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts that provide access to early care and learning, pathways to college and career training, support for youth and families, and community and economic vitality. We envision Vermont at its best—where everyone has the opportunity to build a bright, secure future. Visit vermontcf.org or call 802-388-3355 for more information. For information on our COVID-19 response, visit vtcovid19response.org.

Source: CHARLOTTE, VT—Vermont Land Trust 9.30.2021