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A forum on the future of Vermont's working landscape points to progress, problems

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2013-12-20

The low-hanging jargon lifted quickly.

By the end of the day Tuesday, the dozens of folk who gathered in Randolph to mull the future of Vermont’s rural economy had boiled the conundrum down to two words: “work” and “land.”

Participants began with an ample earful more: “Working group.” “Action plan.” “Enterprise fund.” “Steering committee.” “Partnership.” “Leverage.”

Luckily, translators were in abundance at the second annual Summit on the Future of Vermont’s Working Landscape.

They traced the course of apples-to-cider; beans-to-soup. Oak-to-tables; grain-to-baked goodness. Berries-to-pies. Grass-to-world-class cheese.

And they hoped to secure a trajectory for more young men and women into seasoned apprentices and business owners.

Young entrepreneurs can (and must) be encouraged to pioneer new, “cool” ways to raise and harvest livestock, timber and crops, said Vermont Council on Rural Development Executive Director Paul Costello, whose organization helped mobilize more than 500 people and 200 groups to do just that.

The average age of a farmer or logger in Vermont is about 55, the council reported this year. Forestland owners clock in, on average, about a decade older.

“We’ve got to work harder to re-seed Vermont for the future,” Costello told the large crowd.

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