Our neighbor, Vermont

When Green Hope Farm began, many people asked me, “Why isn’t Green Hope Farm in Vermont?” I had no answer for them other than, “Because, for some reason, it is here, a few miles east in New Hampshire.” But this doesn’t mean I didn’t get the gist of the question. Vermont has a more “forging ahead into the unknown with old ideas rediscovered and new ones yet to be found” ethos than New Hampshire, and that attitude is certainly what we try to bring to our work here.

Now more than ever, Vermont needs its evolutionary spirit. Post Irene, with so many of Vermont’s bridges literally washed away, Vermont must forge ahead as Green Hope Farm friend, Debi Melzer said, “to let the old bridges go and build new bridges to the future.”

New bridges are in all out futures because new circumstances are going to keep knocking on our doors no matter. We all are going to have to take from the past what worked and leave the rest on the other side of the new bridges we build right now, confident new realities await us on the other side of our new bridges.

And God Bless Vermont and the example it sets for all of us, because it has been doing good bridge building for so very long. Vermont’s steep hills with farms down in the valleys have long been vulnerable to floods and other ecological disasters, often due to soil erosion caused by bringing old world methods of farming to new terrain. By acknowledging these problems Vermonters arrived at new ways to work the land. They also helped create the national environmental movement which could be said to have been born in Vermont in the hands of people including Frederick Marsh Billings.

Vermont has been a leader in so many other progressive ideas as well: green technology, the locavore movement, community supported agriculture, artisan cheese, and new concepts of community living based on the tradition of Vermont town meetings. With this kind of momentum, I am confident Vermont will build good new bridges in the wake of Irene.

And I don’t have to just be hopeful here. Lizzy heard Governor Shumlin of Vermont on the radio talking about the problem of having the nerve center for Vermont on the flood plains of Waterbury Vermont. In acknowledging the problem comes the likelihood of solving the problem.

Problems faced can then bring gifts and better bridges. But a problem can only be a gift if we acknowledge there is a problem. Our regional shopping center of many individual plazas in nearby West Lebanon, New Hampshire went through Hurricane Irene with five feet of water sweeping through its stores, because, well, the entire vast shopping area was built on a flood plain for the Connecticut River.

And today’s newspaper said that almost all the stores in West Lebanon plan to rebuild right in the same place. This doesn’t sound like a good idea to me or a good bridge to a sustainable future. As the muck of Irene turns to dust and blows about the sea of parking lots like a scene from the 1930’s dustbowl, another hurricane named Katya seems to have her eye on New England and from another storm system entirely, the weathermen tell us that we can expect 2-6 inches of rain in the next 48 hours, just the kind of rain volume that triggered all the flash floods last week in our water logged region.

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