Working Lands Enterprise Initiative celebrates 11 years of investments and economic impacts

Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative

Over $15 million invested since 2012 in Vermont Farm, Food and Forestry Businesses 

Vermont Business Magazine In 2012, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 142, creating the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, and the structure for investment of state dollars into agricultural and forestry-based businesses.  Over the ensuing eleven years, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) has invested $15.6 million in 446 farm, food, and forestry projects and leveraged an additional $24.6M in matching funds. These projects have created 540 new jobs, impacted 24,985 acres, and generated $92M in sales.

To celebrate these investments and the resulting impacts, the WLEI Board has released the latest Impact Report detailing the significant outcomes from the entire 11 years of the program.  

The report contains specific results of the funding in fiscal year 2023, including special funds allocated to the program from the American Rescue Plan Act. With ongoing support from Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature, WLEI continues to grow, and in fiscal year 2023 received an increase in annual base funding from $594,000 to $1,000,000. 

“Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative isn’t just a program; it’s a commitment to fostering the vitality of our rural communities,” says Danielle Fitzko, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “By supporting our working lands - farms, forests, and local food businesses - we are not only preserving our state’s unique landscape, but also fostering economic resilience and sustainability. This initiative is a testament to the understanding that the health of our environment and the prosperity of our communities are inextricably linked, and that an investment in our working lands is an investment in the heart and soul of Vermont.” 

With growth supported by WLEI grants, farm and forest businesses from all corners of VT have generated tens of millions in new economic activity, helped strengthen local supply chains, and invested in the future of Vermont’s working lands. 

These are businesses like Giddings Hill Forest Products in Bakersfield, which received a $60,000 grant in 2023 for a new forwarder, a truck with a grappling arm to handle and transport logs, to increase logging productivity by 25% and provide a safe low impact machine for new employees. These and other grantee stories are shared in the impact report. 

2023 also saw continued investment in service provider organizations and producer associations that provide key supports to working lands businesses in Vermont. The impact report tells the story of Clean Economy Works, a St. Johnsbury based firm that provides strategic planning and project management for economic development projects. 

They received a $20,000 grant from the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative to work with eight farms in Vermont, including Joe’s Brook Farm in St. Johnsbury, to identify projects and apply for federal energy grants at no cost to the farmers.

“Investing in our working lands is critical to Vermont’s future,” said Anson Tebbetts, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture.  “Keeping Vermont’s land open and productive helps to feed us and the region. These investments make it more affordable to work the land while supporting our rural communities. It’s good business.”

The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is made up of 20 members throughout the supply chains of agriculture and forestry, and staff from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

 

Source: February 16, 2024 | Montpelier, VT - VAAFM

Vermont Business Magazine