The Working Lands Enterprise initiative, Act 142, created the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF) and the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB). The WLEB is made up of private sector members throughout the supply chains of agriculture and forestry, and staff from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Housing Conservation Board, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. In 2015, amendments to legislation increased the size of the Working Lands Enterprise Board to 20 members and added a policy role.
Working Lands Enterprise Board
Anson Tebbetts, Secretary of VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Chair)
Anson Tebbetts was appointed Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets by Governor Phil Scott in January of 2017. Prior to his appointment, Tebbetts spent more than twenty years as part of the WCAX news team, serving as the station’s news director since 2009. From 2007-2009, he stepped away from his role at WCAX to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, under the Douglas administration. An avid bird enthusiast, he co-hosts “For the Birds” on WDEV & WLVB radio. Tebbetts, a graduate of Emerson College, is a native Vermonter with deep agricultural roots. He was born and raised on his family’s farm in Cabot, where he continues to reside today with his wife Vicky and their two children. In 2001, the Vermont Farm Bureau honored him with their Friend of the Farmer award.
Alyson Eastman, Deputy Secretary of VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (Designee)
Alyson Eastman was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets by Governor Phil Scott in January of 2017. Most recently, she served in the Vermont State legislature, representing the Addision-Rutland 1 District. A graduate of Champlain College, Eastman has owned and operated several successful businesses over the years, offering a wide variety of services including property management, payroll, bookkeeping, and H-2 Visa management. Agriculture has always been an important part of her life. She grew up on the family farm in Orwell, Vermont. Throughout her youth, she was active in 4-H. She continues to live on the family farm in Orwell with her husband, and two sons.
Danielle Fitzko, Commissioner of VT Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
Danielle, or Danny to her friends and colleagues, has been with FPR since 2003 where she spent the first 15 years growing the Urban and Community Forestry Program. Now, she is energized by supporting the incredible team in the Division that works hard to keep Vermont forest strong. Outside of work, she can be found in the garden, in the woods, or on her yoga mat.
Tayt Brooks, Deputy Secretary of VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Tayt Brooks is currently the deputy secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). Before being appointed to this position in March of 2021 by Governor Phil Scott, he worked for the Governor as director of affordability and economic initiatives, starting in January 2017. He also spent time with the Agency from 2008 to 2011, under the administration of Governor Jim Douglas, serving as both deputy commissioner and commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development. Brooks, 46, has a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Lawrence University. He lives in St. Albans with his wife and two daughters. He has served his communities in the past as a select board chair and a school board member.
Will Belongia, Vermont Community Loan Fund, Montpelier, VT - One member who is an agriculture and forestry enterprise funder
Belongia has served as the Executive Director of the VCLF since 2004. Prior to being appointed its Executive Director, he was the organization's Chief Financial Officer for 11 years. He holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Vermont. He is also an alumnus of the Snelling Center for Government's Vermont Leadership Institute.
Alan Calfee, Calfee Woodland Management, Rupert, VT - One member who is a representative of a membership-based forestland owner organization
Alan is a Vermont Licensed Professional Forester who has been practicing in southern Vermont for over 30 years. He has an undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Forestry from the University of Vermont. Alan’s business, Calfee Woodland Management, helps hundreds of private, municipal, not-for-profit and corporate woodland owners steward their properties with a holistic and sustainable long-term approach. Alan was involved with Vermont Coverts since its inception. He ran and taught landowner workshops for many years and is still involved with the Board. Alan and his wife Jeanne live in Rupert and steward almost a thousand acres of beautiful Taconic land along the Mettowee River.
Megan Cowles Camp, Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT - One member who is an employee of a Vermont institution engaged in agriculture or forestry education, training, or research
Camp serves as Vice President and Program Director at Shelburne Farms providing leadership for organizational and educational program development. Much of her work over her 30 years at the Farm has focused on building public private partnerships to conduct research, influence policy, and build networks to strengthen Education for Sustainability in Vermont and around the world.
Charlie Hancock, Cold Hollow to Canada, Montgomery, VT - One representative of the VT forest industry who is a forester (Vice-Chair)
Charlie Hancock is a consulting forester and conservationist at North Woods Forestry working with private landowners and non-profits across northern Vermont. Charlie received degrees in Forestry and Recreation Management from the School of Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. Prior to taking over North Woods Forestry in 2007, Charlie worked as an operations forester with Upland Forestry and the Lyme Timber Co. in the Adirondack region of New York. In addition to his work at North Woods Forestry, Charlie serves as the Board Chair of Cold Hollow to Canada, a community-based regional conservation partnership located in the Northern Greens. Charlie is also the chairman of both the Selectboard and Conservation Commission in Montgomery, Vermont. Charlie is also a past chair of the Green Mountain Division of the Society of American Foresters and serves on the board of trustees of the Vermont Land Trust.
Donna Young, Judd's Wayeeses Farms, Morgan, VT - One member who is actively engaged in commodity maple production
Donna and her partner, Jim, produce wood-fired, organic maple syrup on a 3000 tap sugarbush overlooking Seymour Lake in the Northeast Kingdom. In addition, they produce and sell maple sugar to stores throughout New England. Donna has a BS in Engineering from Cornell University and an MS in Computer Science from Boston University and worked as a Systems Engineer, specializing in automating factories around the world. Now she has more time to spend on the farm and enjoy skiing/snowboarding, biking and water sports in the NEK. Donna serves as the Orleans County Director on the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and as the Treasurer and Maple to Schools coordinator for the Orleans County Maple Producers Association.
Dave Hubbard, GMC Hardwoods, Norwich, VT - One member who is actively engaged in wood products manufacturing
Dave has been employed by GMC Hardwoods, Inc. since 1984. GMC Hardwoods is a wholesale lumber firm located in Medfield Massachusetts. Dave's responsibilities include the purchase and sale of green and kiln-dried hardwood lumber from saw mills in VT, NH, ME, CT, NY, PA, Quebec, and Ontario. Dave is a graduate of National Hardwood Inspection School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Bob Lesnikoski, Vermont Cranberry Company, East Fairfield, VT - One member who is actively engaged in on-farm value-added processing
After many years owning logging companies, Lesnikoski started Vermont Cranberry Company in 1997. The farm has 3.5 acres of producing cranberry beds and produces fresh fruit, juice, specialty jams and jellies, cranberry juice and dried cranberries. Lesnikoski is also a winemaker, ski instructor, and owner of Seasonal Seafood. He holds a B.S. in Forest Management with a concentration in Wildlife Management from the University of Vermont.
Alison Low, Northeastern Vermont Development Association - A person with expertise in rural economic development
Alison Low, is a senior planner at Northeastern Vermont Development Association, the regional planning commission and economic development corporation serving the Northeast Kingdom. She joined the NVDA staff in 2003. In addition to researching and updating the Regional Food System Plan for the Northeast Kingdom, she has written and administered grant funds for farm- and food-related infrastructure investments, including the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, and the Hardwick Yellow Barn Business Accelerator. As a planner, she has worked with communities to develop land use strategies that minimize fragmentation of working lands and accommodate farm and forestry enterprises.
Marisa Mauro, Ploughgate Creamery, Fayston, VT - One member with expertise in sales, marketing, or market development
Marisa Mauro is the owner/operator of Ploughgate Creamery at the Bragg Farm in Fayston, VT. She has been working in the dairy industry for over twenty years, learning her craft at dairies throughout Vermont and California. In 2008, Marisa started Ploughgate, with a focus on artisanal cheesemaking. Settling in the Northeast Kingdom, and working out of a tiny, one-room facility, she created the award-winning Hartwell and Willoughby cheeses. When a 2011 fire at her facility halted production, she saw an opportunity to refocus the Ploughgate brand. With a new vision, she sold her cheese recipes to Jasper Hill Cellars, relocated to the Mad River Valley, and started making cultured butter. Marisa then purchased the Bragg Farm through the Vermont Land Trust, resurrecting the 50 acre hilltop farm, and expanding the signature cultured butter business that Ploughgate is best known for today.
Tyler Miller, Vermont Land Trust, Montpelier, VT - One member with expertise in land planning and conservation efforts that support Vermont’s working landscape
Tyler Miller is the Vice President for Stewardship at Vermont Land Trust. Tyler leads VLT’s stewardship program, which includes working with over 900 farms across Vermont around issues of farm viability, planning, environmental stewardship, water quality improvement, and farm transitions. Tyler has worked with farmers on conserved lands for the past 15 years. He received his bachelor’s from the University of New Hampshire and holds a master’s degree in resource management and administration from Antioch University. In his free time, Tyler is an avid gardener, woodworker, hiker, and cross-country skier.
Alisha Utter, Arbor Farmstead, Grand Isle, VT - One member involved in production agriculture whose primary enterprise is not fluid milk
Alisha co-stewards Arbor Farmstead, a diversified fruit farm on the Lake Champlain Islands. In addition to growing fresh fruit, the farm crafts value-added products on-site, including fruit syrups to serve in snow cones at events and farmers' markets. In addition to farming, Alisha is a Plant and Soil Science PhD student at the University of Vermont where she studies veganic agricultural practices/principles and the intersections with food sovereignty, regenerative agriculture, and agroecology. Alisha grew up in New York's Hudson Valley and went on to earn a BA in Environmental Policy and Marine Science at the University of California San Diego. She deeply values the working landscape/agricultural community and feels privileged to live and farm in Vermont. Alisha serves as the Champlain Islands Farmers' Market secretary, a leadership team member for the Vermont Young Farmers Coalition; and a board member for the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association.
Ex-officio, Non-voting Members:
Ellen Kahler, Executive Director of VT Sustainable Jobs Fund, Montpelier, VT - Executive Director of VT Sustainable Jobs Fund or designee
Ellen Kahler became the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) in late 2005. The organization provides business assistance, value chain facilitation, network development, and strategic planning in agriculture and food systems, forest products, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental technology. She is a graduate of Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a Master of Public Administration. Ellen has received numerous leadership awards including: The Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial & Community Leadership from the VT Community Foundation (2015), the Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership from the VT Natural Resources Council (2015) and the Jan Eastman Excellence in Leadership Award from the Snelling Center for Government (2010). Ellen currently serves on the Boards of the Statewide Workforce Development Board, Energy Action Network, and the Climate Economy Action Council.
Cassie Polhemus, Chief Executive Officer of VT Economic Development Authority, Montpelier, VT - Manager of VT Economic Development Authority or designee
Cassie Polhemus became Chief Executive Officer of the Vermont Economic Development Authority in February, 1997. Cassie joined VEDA in 2013 as a Commercial Lender and became VEDA’s Director of Operations in 2014. In January, 2017, Cassie became VEDA's COO. Cassie has over twenty years of experience in commercial lending and risk management with financial institutions. Prior to joining VEDA, she was Senior Vice President and Risk Manager for Northeast Member Business Services, a credit union service organization providing small business lending services to credit unions in New England and California. From 1987 to 1999, she held various commercial lending and credit management positions at banks in Connecticut and Vermont. Cassie earned a B.A. in Economics from Williams College.
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of VT Housing Conservation Board, Montpelier, VT - Executive Director VT Housing Conservation Board or designee
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.
Sarah Isham, Senior Agricultural Loan Officer, VT Economic Development Authority, Montpelier, VT
Since 2000, Sarah has been VACC’s Senior Agricultural Loan Officer, having started her tenure with VACC as an Agricultural Loan Officer in 1994. Sarah previously had a 14-year career with USDA as an Assistant County Supervisor at Farmers Home Administration, where she originated farm and housing loans. Sarah graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Animal Science. A resident of Brookfield, she is actively involved in the Vermont horse industry and community organizations.
Paul Frederick, Department of Forestry, Parks and Recreation
Paul joined the department in 1984. When he isn't busy being the go-to guy for all things wood-market related, he enjoys hunting, gardening, and tending to his bees.
Randall Szott, Economic Development Specialist, Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Randall is an Economic Development Specialist for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. In that role, he is the Partner Program Liaison supporting Agency collaborations with the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. His other duties include supporting the work of the Vermont Economic Progress Council. Prior to working at ACCD, he worked as a town administrator, state legislator, and public library director.