Smart Growth in Action: Fundamental Principles
Principle 6: Encourage and strengthen agricultural and forest enterprises and minimize conflicts of development with these businesses.
Vermont’s working lands are a critical component of our economy, history and culture. Over 20% of our land is farmland and 78% is forested. Dairy alone returns more than $2 billion to our economy in the form of product and jobs. In fact, our dairy industry employs thousands more people than IBM and is second only to our state government. Every acre of forest adds $335 to our economy, or over $300 million in 2007.
We value our working land for its direct economic importance and for the added value it brings to tourism and to the quality of all our lives. Our landscape provides wildlife habitat and diversity, scenic landscapes and recreational opportunities. Many Vermonters are creating businesses that use the land — woodworkers, syrup production, biomass collection and small scale logging.
A recent report conducted by the Council on the Future of Vermont quantifies the high value we place on our traditional compact villages surrounded by working landscapes. This reinforces the need to preserve our farms, forests and wildlife habitat. However, we are losing thousands of acres of farm, forest and critical wildlife habitat each year to development.
Our farming and forest sectors are changing to keep up with market demands and state and local governments need to strengthen land use policies that can support a balance of economic, cultural and environmental values. Vermont already has several programs in place, including the Current Use Program which taxes land on its use rather than on highest development potential. Conservation of land helps keep farming and logging possible for Vermont families. At the local level, towns can create zoning districts to encourage agriculture at the edges of compact villages, denser development in town centers, and protect larger tracts of land critical to wildlife from fragmentation.
As Vermonters, we can frequent our local farm stands and farmers markets and support local woodworkers, buy local syrup and consider biomass as a fuel source. By keeping our food sources local and keeping the forest resources we harvest in Vermont, we are also retaining jobs.
Smart Growth Vermont also provides numerous resources in the Community Planning Toolbox and the Connect to the Land sections of our website. Take a look!