New Working Lands Grants & Loans Available

Working Lands Enterprise Board announces $650,000 in available grant funds & 2 innovative new loan programs. These grants & new low-interest, payment-deferred loans offer eligible farm & forest product businesses an opportunity to improve infrastructure, process or profitability. 

The Working Lands Enterprise Board (WLEB) announced the availability of approximately $650,000 in grant 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 here. 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. 

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. For more information about the program contact Dan Winslow, VCLF Business Programs Loan Coordinator, at dan@vclf.org, or click here.

The partnership with VEDA and the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (VACC) will support conventional dairy farms looking to transition to organic 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 info@veda.org or visit www.veda.org.

Again in FY 2017, $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

RFP AVAILABLE: 10/3/16
LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 11/9/16 at noon
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE/DENIAL OF LETTER OF INTENT: Late Dec. 2016
INVITED FULL APPLICATION DUE: 2/9/17 at noon
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION: March 2017
ESTIMATED PROJECT START DATE: 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

RFP AVAILABLE: 10/17/16
LETTER OF INTENT DUE: 12/2/16 at noon
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE/DENIAL OF LETTER OF INTENT: Late Jan. 2017
INVITED FULL APPLICATION DUE: 3/7/17 at noon
APPLICANT NOTIFICATION: April 2017
ESTIMATED PROJECT START DATE: 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

o   RSVP Required – Noelle.Sevoian@vermont.gov

  • Rutland Economic Development Corporation (REDC), 67 Merchants Row, Suite 1, Rutland, VT 05701

o   Contact Sara Gilbert – sara@rutlandeconomy.com

For more information and to register for the webinar, click here.

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 & 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.

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