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History of the Initiative

History of the Initiative

In 2012, the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) was signed into law. The Initiative supports, grows, and sustains Vermont's entrepreneurs by providing technical and financial assistance to help Working Lands businesses innovate and grow.

Program Overview to Date

Since the program passed through the legislature in 2012, the program has:

  • Funded 250 Agriculture and Forestry Projects.
  • Distributed Over $7 Million in Working Lands Funds.
  • Leveraged over $11 million in matching funds (cash, in kind, other private and public investment).
  • These investments continue to make an impact in all 14 counties

From 2012-2018, Working Lands Grantees have:

  • Made investments to grantees that resulted in the creation of over 500 jobs, with sales revenues of over $36 million for the Vermont Economy
  • Impacted over 19,000 acres
  • Employed over 1,000 people

Covid-19 Program Impacts:​

In June of 2020, sixteen business awards were announced for $251K for a funding opportunity which came from previously unallocated FY20 funds. Based on the unprecedented arrival of COVID-19, though these dollars were originally allocated for scopes of work for Service Providers, the WLEB nimbly diverted those dollars back to businesses. This was a quick 'grants opportunity' turnaround focused on COVID-19 impacts for market adaptation, funded via the Working Lands Enterprise Fund (WLEF). 

In the summer of 2020, the Vermont State Legislature appropriated Coronavirus Relief Funds to the WLEF via two bills. H.966 for Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance was signed by Governor Scott in July. $2.5 million was appropriated to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, then routed to the WLEF for agricultural, food and forest, and wood product industries. The $1 million H.961 went directly to WLEF, and the board opted a path for dollars directly to Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets’ greater Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program, to ensure swift relief to businesses for past economic harm.

The Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance Application, for farmers, meat and poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farmers markets, agricultural food products businesses, forest products businesses, and producer associations, launched in August 2020.The design of  bills  H961 and H966 allowed apt implementation by the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets to deploy the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program to over 200 businesses statewide.