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Working Lands Enterprise Board Announces $650,000 in Available Grant Funds and Two Innovative New Loan Programs

Working Lands grants and a new low-interest, payment-deferred loan offer eligible farm and forest product businesses an opportunity to improve infrastructure, proc

October 4, 2016

Today, the Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) is delighted to announce the opening of this year’s grant cycle and the availability of approximately $650,000 in grants funds for the 2017 program year.  Funds support projects across forestry and agriculture that enhance Vermont’s communities, economy and culture.  Links to the requests for proposals and applications can be found online at Applicant Information Sessions are scheduled for October 6th and 11th at various locations across the state.

In addition to the grant program, the WLEB has created two innovative new loan pilots in partnership with the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) and the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to support working lands entrepreneurs and dairy farms that are transitioning to organic production. Funding for these loan pilots was provided by Charles and Leigh Merinoff, Progressive Farm Alliance, and Long Trail Brewing Company.

The partnership with VCLF has launched SPROUT Deferred Payment Loan Program (SPROUT), a low-interest revolving loan fund that will meet the capital needs of Vermont’s working lands entrepreneurs.  SPROUT offers deferred-payment, low-interest loans of up to $60,000 at 0% with no payments for the first two years, with a 2% fixed rate thereafter. VCLF will also coordinate comprehensive business development and financial planning/management technical assistance for borrowers as needed.

“SPROUT financing will provide a powerful tool for emerging working lands businesses which are facing exciting growth opportunities,” says VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia. “There isn’t a loan product like SPROUT currently available to working lands entrepreneurs in Vermont. SPROUT’s rates and terms will allow VCLF to extend financing and free technical assistance to businesses that otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a VCLF loan. The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative has been an incredible partner in supporting working lands businesses in Vermont.” 
For more information about the program contact Dan Winslow, VCLF Business Programs Loan Coordinator, at, or visit
The partnership with VEDA and the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (VACC) will support conventional dairy farms looking to transition to organic production.  VEDA CEO, Jo Bradley, says, “VEDA is especially excited that through its partnership with the Working Lands Enterprise Board and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), an attractive new loan option will be made available to Vermont dairy farmers transitioning from conventional to organic milk production.”  VACC will be able to offer these borrowers interest-free loans with deferred principal payments for up to the first two years, thanks to subsidies being provided by WLEB.  By providing these loans, VEDA hopes to help improve the long-term financial viability of dairy farms transitioning to organic production so that they may receive the higher price that organic milk demands in the marketplace.

For more information about the program contact or visit
“Since 2012, the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative has created a vehicle to target funds and technical assistance to capitalize on the quality and brand of Vermont’s Working Lands enterprises.” says Chuck Ross, Secretary of Agriculture. “New loan pilot programs are an important extension of that work, further leveraging the program’s funds, engaging key partners, and providing a funding option to businesses who may not have otherwise been able to access appropriate capital.”

Again in FY2017, $30,000 of Local Food Market Development (LFMD) grant funds will be made available through the Working Lands grant process. The focus of LFMD funding is to increase Vermont producers’ access to institutional and wholesale markets, promote consumption of local food, and encourage scaling up through new market development opportunities across the state.
The two investment areas are as follows:
1. Business Investments: $5,000-$50,000
LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/9/16 at noon
Late December 2016
2/9/17 at noon
March 2017
Late April 2017

Projects may include, but are not limited to: Infrastructure (project-specific planning, permitting, and/or engineering/architectural plans; and/or building and equipment costs); Marketing (accessing new markets and securing new customers); Research and Development (testing new systems or technologies or developing innovative solutions).

2. Service Provider Investment:    $15,000-$75,000
12/2/16 at noon
Late January 2017
3/7/17 at noon
April 2017
Late May 2017

Projects should demonstrate direct impact on Vermont Working Lands businesses. Types of technical assistance provided may include: Market development, marketing plans, and sales; Business and financial planning; Succession planning; Access to capital; Manufacturing efficiencies or process flow
Applicant Info Sessions:
Thursday, October 6th, 4:00-4:30 – Chapter 1 Webinar: Overview of the Working Lands Enterprise Program and Eligibility Requirements
Tuesday, October 11th, 3:30-4:30 – Chapters 2 & 3: Navigating the Grants Management System (GMS) and Creating Your Budget
Applicant Info Sessions will be hosted at the following locations:

  • Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 116 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05620, phone: 802.585.9072
  • RSVP Required –
    Northern Vermont Development Association, 36 Eastern Avenue, Suite 1, St Johnsbury, VT, 05819, Second Floor Conference Room
o   Contact David Snedeker –
·         Springfield Regional Development Corporation, 14 Clinton Street Suite 7, Springfield, VT, 05156
o   Contact Bob Flint –
·         Rutland Economic Development Corporation, 67 Merchants Row, Suite 1, Rutland, VT 05701
o   Contact Sarah Gilbert –
·         Windham County Economic Development Program, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, 76 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, VT 05301
o   Contact RT Brown –
For more information and to register for the webinar, visit
The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, (Act 142), is administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.  The Working Lands funds are administered by the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB), an impact investment organization whose mission is to grow the economies, cultures, and communities of Vermont’s working landscape by making essential, catalytic investments in critical leverage points of the Vermont farm and forest economy, from individual enterprises to industry sectors.

About the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets: VAAFM facilitates, supports and encourages the growth and viability of agriculture in Vermont while protecting the working landscape, human health, animal health, plant health, consumers and the environment.  www.Agriculture.Vermont.Gov

Contact Information:
Noelle Sevoian
Agricultural Development Specialist
Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets