A closer look at our grantees, investments, and big initiatives:
We are in a precarious moment where gains made by Farm to Plate and Eat Local initiatives to grow and diversify Vermont’s agricultural opportunities are threatened by consolidation in the retail food industry. This feature story explains why High Meadows is committing its time and financial resources to helping nonprofit food hubs scale up to better connect modest-scale farms to consumers who want both healthy food and a fair wage to the farmer. We expect to learn a lot from our partners in this work.
When low-income residents in western Vermont need help with food, shelter, emergency fuel, weatherizing their homes, or other life necessities, they often turn to BROC Community Action. But a few years ago, the nonprofit organization itself needed weatherizing help. It had purchased a 50,000-square-foot building in Rutland, Vermont, that had been neglected for years. Its lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems needed to be replaced. When BROC couldn’t find a lender to finance the upgrades, Commons Energy was able to help with both the retrofits and the financing to pay for them.
The ownership, economics, and composition of Vermont’s forestlands have changed over the past fifty years. Through these changes, the Vermont Land Trust has partnered with landowners. One method of partnership has been land acquisition: in 1997, The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) and the Nature Conservancy of Vermont (TNC), with the support of the Freeman Foundation, partnered to purchase 26,789 acres of actively managed forestland from the Atlas Plywood Company. VLT and TNC formed the Atlas Timberlands Partnership (“The Partnership”) in order to illustrate how land conservation organizations can work together to achieve shared goals.
The Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program aims to match farmers with affordable land to grow crops or raise animals. Successful farmland conservation is more than keeping farmland in farming. It involves building relationships with aspiring new farmers, establishing trust with existing farmers who wish to sell their land, and connecting new farmers to agronomic, ecological, and financial resources that will enable them to succeed. Finding the right owner for a certain parcel requires flexibility through ownership transitions, and that right owner must design a business that deals with challenges inherent to agriculture and specific to their parcel of land.