The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI), a joint initiative between the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, released its 2014 Annual Report. Highlights include job creation and increased income generation among Agriculture and Forestry grant recipients reporting to date. Initially launched in 2012, the mission of the WLEI is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscapes by investing in critical leverage points across Vermont’s farm and forest sectors. To date, the Working Lands Enterprise Board has invested in 74 agriculture and forestry projects in all fourteen Vermont counties, distributing $2.1 million dollars in Working Lands funds, and leveraging an additional $3.1 million dollars in matching funds.

“Vermont’s working landscape owes its vibrancy to the innovative and committed farm and forest businesses all across our state,” said Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Chuck Ross. “Many of these businesses are growing thanks to these catalytic investments, impacting individual businesses as well as the value chain.”

While only 23 of the 74 projects funded in fiscal year 2013 and 2014 have been completed to date (grant agreement timelines range from 12, to 18 months) positive trends within Vermont’s agriculture and forestry sectors due to Working Lands investments are emerging:

• 25 new jobs created (full time equivalents)
• Aggregated gross income increased by $880,831 across sectors
• Grant recipients increased product output by an average of 25%
• 91% of grant recipients reported increased capacity to fulfill additional contracts