What do you love best about Vermont? Our maple syrup? Organic cheese? Skiing or snowboarding? Mountain climbing? Our farm to plate restaurants? Chances are whatever your favorites are in Planet Vermont, they are here for you because of Vermont’s working landscape. That’s the term Vermonters are using to refer to the Green Mountain state’s pastoral forests and fields– and there’s a concerted effort afoot to ensure they will remain sustainable.
Last year our Legislature passed the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative which allocated $1Million 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.” A request for proposals to carry out the WL initiative was issued last year and yesterday was the deadline for submittals.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all across the state have offered ideas and projects that will eventually add up to a wave of renewed commitment and progress in sustaining our working lands. We at Vermont Woods Studios are among the group.
Our proposal seeks to use WL grant monies to close the final funding phase of renovating our Stonehurst Furniture Gallery and Nature Center. From a Working Lands perspective, one of the advantages of Stonehurst is that it tells the story of where Vermont made furniture comes from and how it’s made– sustainably.
Putting our Working Lands proposal together has been quite a process and regardless of whether we win an award, I think it’s been time well spent. I know the grant is highly competitive. It’s my understanding that the WL Board received some 268 proposals for a total request of over $12 million. They are working with only $1Million in funding, so the odds aren’t good.
But I feel our proposal answers an important need in providing a market for Vermont’s wood furniture and a destination that will attract customers from beyond our borders. We’ve been able to forge many new partnerships and collaborations as a result of the grant application process and that alone makes the effort worthwhile.
Decisions on grant awards are expected in April and we’ll keep you posted. Best of luck to everyone who has invested their time into this important project!