Vt. gives $220K in first working lands grants



Associated Press

MONTPELIER -- After a sip of her grandmother’s switchel -- a concoction of apple cider vinegar, water and maple syrup -- Susan Alexander vowed she’d bottle it someday.

Twenty-seven years later, her Vermont Switchel Company will soon have the equipment she needs to efficiently bottle the "crisp, clean flavor with a long, smooth finish."

Alexander’s company was one of 20 new or growing businesses to receive grants in the first round of the state’s working land grants program -- a total of nearly $220,000 -- on Thursday. The Legislature appropriated $1 million for the program to support the state’s agricultural, food and forestry businesses.

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Announced at the Statehouse, the grants ranged from $3,000 to $15,000, which Alexander received.

Other projects receiving funding included structural improvements to a mushroom farm in Middlebury, the purchase of a kiln for a sawmill in Danville, construction of a poultry processing facility in Richmond, installation of a thermostatically controlled water flow system for a trout and strawberry aquaponic production in Bristol, and a goat-slaughter facility for new Americans in Colchester.

"The innovation that we’re bringing to both our farmers and our forest products is an example of how to do food and forests right and how to ensure that Vermont’s best agricultural days are ahead of us, not behind us," said Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The enterprise investment area of the fund received 191 applications for a total of $2.1 million in requests. A board will make decisions about the two other investment areas -- grants for service providers and capital and infrastructure funds -- during its May 21 meeting, officials said.

Alexander said her $15,000 grant will help tremendously.

"I’ll be able to improve my bottling efficiency, and nine months into it now I have 30 stores carrying Switchel in the northwestern corner of the state," she said. "There are people clamoring for it around the state. I haven’t been able to fill those orders because of the slow production. And there’s a keen, keen interest from out of state as well for products made in Vermont."


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