Opinion: State fund aids rural economy

The Working Lands Enterprise Fund was created in 2012 with Act 142 to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.” For two years, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund has supported our working lands enterprises, with great results. As the governor and his administration are building the budget for next year, I hope they will continue to fund this important economic initiative at $1.5 million.
Part of why Vermont is such a special place is because we have a thriving rural economy and culture. This economy stems, in part, from the solidity of agriculture and our working lands. Our local farms, working forests, farmers’ markets, and common concern for the viability of land-based livelihoods create a unique sense of community and purpose.
I am originally from Montana, a place where agriculture has historically been an economic backbone. But Montana today is a place where many families are selling their ranches. Montanans are not as proud to say “I am a farmer” or “I am a forester” as the Vermonters I have met.
I believe Vermont’s thriving rural economies stem, in part, from programs like the Working Lands Enterprise initiative. The Working Lands Enterprise initiative supports an economy and a culture with deep roots in the land, and it is the most exciting economic development program in Vermont right now. I hope the administration will continue to support it with sufficient funding.
Katie Michels

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