The backbone of Vermont’s heritage and economic viability is our working landscape. Over 97 percent of Vermonters value the “working landscape,” which consists of agriculture, food systems, forestry, and forest products businesses. Approximately 20 percent of Vermont’s working land is used for agricultural purposes and 75 percent is forested. The Findings section of Act 142 outlines nine goals of the Working Lands initiative.
The mission of the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont's working landscape. The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) achieves this by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy and facilitating policy development to optimize the agricultural and forest use of Vermont lands.
Businesses must be based in Vermont and registered with the Secretary of State at the time of full application submission. All business structures are eligible (e.g. Partnerships, Limited Liability Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Cooperatives, Corporations, S Corporations, L3Cs, and B Corporations and/or non-profits that are involved in the production of agriculture and/or forest related products).
Previous recipients of Business grants for over $20,000 are not eligible to apply for further Working Lands funding until three years after the start date of their previous grant (i.e., FY15 Capital and Infrastructure grantees are eligible to apply for FY19 funding). Past recipients of grants under $20,000 are eligible to apply again.
Projects may include, but are not limited to:
- Infrastructure: project specific planning, permitting, and/or engineering/architectural plans; purchase and/or construction of physical assets (i.e., building and equipment costs)
- Marketing: accessing new markets and securing new customers, including institutional and wholesale market expansion
- Research and Development: testing new systems or technologies or developing innovative solutions
STANDARD BUSINESS GRANTS - $5,000-$24,999
Project activities for these grants may include:
- Infrastructure development: project specific planning, permitting, and/or engineering or architectural plans; purchase and/or construction of physical assets (i.e., building and equipment costs)
- Market development: accessing new markets and securing new customers, including institutional and wholesale market expansion, costs associated with achieving humane and/or organic certification
- Research and development: testing new systems or technologies; developing innovative solutions to production issue
SUPPLY CHAIN IMPACT BUSINESS GRANTS - $25,000-$75,000
Project characteristics may include:
Grants will demonstrate how the market or product the applicant is developing or expanding will positively impact multiple businesses within its own supply chain.
- Infrastructure improvements that support increased production, processing, and/or distribution of a commodity or value-added product(s), thus benefiting the application and additional enterprises;
- Leveraging supply chain partnerships to reach new or larger markets, e.g. via product aggregation, co-branding, vertical or horizontal efficiencies, etc.
MARKET LEVEL IMPACT BUSINESS GRANTS - $50,000-$150,000 (forestry, wood products, and dairy sectors only)
Project activities for these grants will illustrate how the market,product, or service the applicant is developing or expanding will positively impact multiple businesses and/or create a new market for sector-specific comodities and/or value-added products, as noted below. Impacts of gthe project will be visible across the market, and within that industry sector in Vermont.
- Makes significant process and/or infrastructure improvements for medium to large scale production, processing, or distribution enterprises in the forestry, wood products, or dairy sector;
- Scale of the primary product being brought into supply chain has the ability to broaden the industry, address the sector on a market-wide scale, and/or address a market downturn;
- The technology or approach is innovative and will lead to new opportunities for multiple businesses
Grants are funded through a State of Vermont legislative appropriation, with additional philanthropic contributions
For all Business Grants:
- Budget must show at least a 1-to-1 match (for every dollar of WLEB funds requested, applicant must show at least one dollar of matching funds). At least 50% of match must be cash, the rest may be in-kind. Under limited circumstances, match requirements may be reduced or waived for projects that can justify the need for a reduced match.
- Primary beneficiaries are Vermont agriculture, forestry & forest products businesses (including farm and/or forest landowners).
- Working Lands Business Grants are awarded through a competitive review process guided by industry, nonprofit and government stakeholders
- Standard Business Grant projects will be 18 months in duration; Market Level Impact and Supply Chain Impact projects will be 24 months in duration
Key Dates and Deadlines:
- Request for Applications Release: October 1, 2019
- Pre-application Period Begins: October 8, 2019
- Pre-applications Due: November 3, 2019 at 11:59 PM (application closes at midnight)
- Notification of Pre-application Acceptance/Denial: Late December 2019
- Invited Full Applications Due: January 26, 2020 at 11:59 PM (application closes at midnight)
- Award Notification: March 2020
- Estimated Project Start Date: May 2020