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Friday, January 28, 2011

Council For Rural Development and Vermont's Working Landscape

Summit Emphasizes Value of Working Landscape  

  by Robin Reid

republished from Rural Route Today - December 19, 2010 edition

The Vermont Council on Rural Develpement has put together a five-point platform to protect and enhance Vermont’s working landscape. Support is building for its implementation.

• Build a Major Campaign to Celebrate the Distinctiveness of 

     the Working Landscape that is Vermont

• Target Strategic Investment through a Vermont Agriculture 

     and Forest Products Development Corporation

• Designate and Support “Working Lands”

• Develop Tax Revenue to Support Working Landscape 

     Enterprise Development and Conservation

• Build a State Planning Office and Activate the 

     Development Cabinet

The gathering took place at the Vermont State House in Montpelier on December 10, 2010

Paul Costello, Executive Director of the council remarked that “rural areas are not just empty land that hasn’t been developed yet. It’s serving a function in balance to the developed areas of the country. We need to change our attitude to one of balance and hold onto something that other places have lost.” 

The public is beginning to understand there is a real crisis on the farm but the summit exposed the unheralded crisis of the forest industries. Vermont’s forest makes up most of its open space areas. A sense of entrepreneurial opportunity exists in the food system and is identified by the rapid growth of direct sales in Vermont. There is an opportunity to make a concerted campaign to change market conditions and make Vermont a leader in the local food movement and raise the flag nationally in agricultural and natural resources innovation. By definition, the working landscape must include farm AND forest. The working landscape is also recognized as a lynchpin to Vermont’s tourist industry

The summit featured opening remarks by Speaker of the House Shap Smith who was raised on a working sheep farm in Vermont, Chuck Ross who serves as Senator Leahy’s top aide (and is poised to take the reins from Roger Allbee as the next Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets) and Governor elect Peter Shumlin. All emphasized the need for change and innovation to maintain the economic vitality of Vermont’s working landscape. 

Presenting on the panels were policy makers, agricultural entrepreneurs and leaders in the forest products industry. The summit wrapped up with facilitated sessions that sought pragmatic suggestions to advance the goals of the action plan. Anyone can support this initiative and be part of the solution. By the end of the day, over 100 people signed on to the partnership and you can, too. Go to and click the woodpile at the right of the screen to join in.