The Vermont Working Landscapes Partnership

The Vermont Working Landscapes Partnership

The Working Landscape Enterprise Investment Bill

The Vermont Council on Rural Development brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including VNRC, around shared goals of supporting local agriculture and forestry, growing and attracting farm and forest entrepreneurs, and conserving Vermont’s working landscape far into the future. The bipartisan initiative was officially launched at a January 11, 2012 press event where they announced legislation aimed at achieving those goals. The lead sponsor in the House, Representative Will Stevens, outlined why this initiative matters. Please click here to read his speech.
Vermonters overwhelmingly agree that our state’s identity is closely linked to the working landscape, according to a recent survey by the Council on the Future of Vermont. Farming and forestry face challenges, however, and we must act boldly now to ensure that the character of the land – and the economies that the land supports – are maintained for future generations of Vermonters, visitors, and entrepreneurs.

Fortunately, the foundation for this work is already built: recent efforts, such as Farm to Plate, have defined the needs for the working landscape.

The Vermont Working Landscape Partnership is building on this good work and taking it to the next level with legislation this session. The Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill defines how we can pull all of the opportunities, policies, and new plans into one unified, efficient, and effective effort to support Vermont’s working lands economies.

This bill is about more than just making grants and loans: it’s about systematically combining funding sources and policy for an efficient system that helps Vermont’s working lands entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.

The bill proposes to:

  • Develop a major campaign to celebrate Vermont’s working lands enterprise economy and establish Vermont as the national leader in food systems and innovation.
  • Create a fund for start-up businesses, provide a “one stop shop” for support services to new and growing businesses, and fund the infrastructure needed for a strong farm and forest economy.
  • Create a board to oversee the Working Lands Enterprise Fund, administer the Working Lands Designation, and coordinate all economic development efforts related to working lands enterprises.
  • Allow municipalities to designate “working lands enterprise areas” in their municipal plans, and allows individuals to get farm and forest parcels they own designated, through the Working Lands Enterprise Board.
  • Create a new Office of Planning Coordination in the Agency of Administration. The Office would assist the Development Cabinet in fulfilling its duties: to ensure collaboration among agencies regarding economic development activities, while staying true to a growth pattern that supports compact village centers and downtowns surrounded by rural countryside.

In short, this bill puts pieces into place to leverage creativity of entrepreneurs, and harness the energy of Vermont’s farm and forest innovators in the 21st century.

Learn more about the Partnership here.

Contact your Legislator about this bill! You can find your legislator and his or her contact information here.