Over the course of two months in early 2017, Rural Vermont embarked on a six-stop community conversation tour known as “Groundswell.” Groundswell was conceived and launched as a way to connect more directly and intimately with the people and communities we serve. Our intention was to share our vision for a just transition to regenerative agriculture in Vermont, and also to learn more about how Rural Vermont can best serve the needs of the people and communities we visited. Now, we need your support as we begin the work required to match Rural Vermont’s capacity to the needs and ideas that were shared with us.
By almost every conceivable metric, Groundswell was an overwhelming success. Attendance far exceeded expectations, and the breadth and depth of ideas and conversation, as well as the sheer passion and energy of those attending, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. We were also encouraged by the generational diversity: From toddlers, to teens, to thirty-somethings and honest-to-goodness old timers, we had it all.
The only realm in which we fell short of our goals during the Groundswell Tour was in raising money. These funds are necessary to continue the work of responding to and acting on the information and ideas you shared with us. Because Rural Vermont does not seek or accept federal or state funding – in order to maintain our independence in representing your needs – your contribution now is vitally important.
Thanks to copious note-taking, hundreds of completed participant surveys, and the artistic skills of our “visual story teller” Erik “Erok” Gillard, who joined us at each event to transform the participants’ feedback into vibrant art (see below and insert), we finished the Groundswell Tour with a much stronger sense of what people truly want and need from Rural Vermont.
Now we dig in: Over the coming weeks, Rural Vermont staff and board members will be working to analyze and compile the results from Groundswell and turn that information into a plan for action. In the meantime, we can share that one of the things we heard most often on the Tour was a clearly articulated and emphatic desire for Rural Vermont to maintain, and even increase, its presence on a community-by-community basis. There is a tremendous hunger for more conversation, more sharing of ideas and knowledge, and a coming together in solidarity to foment the change we all want to see.
We look forward to reporting back to the communities we visited, along with our membership at large, with a final and full report of the Groundswell findings, as well as Rural Vermont’s priorities and plans. Just before the legislative session ended, we visited the State House to share some of what we learned. We believe it is imperative that our elected representatives hear us loud and clear: The time for a just transition to regenerative agriculture in Vermont has come. It is not merely our desire to act, but our responsibility to do so.
The tour component of Groundswell was the first crucial step in our outreach to Vermont citizens and communities. Right now, we need your support to help us keep this momentum strong, and transform ideas and conversation into concrete action. And we need it to sustain our on-going work as we fight for policies that support Vermont’s farmers, along with the families and communities they nourish. Never before has this work felt more necessary or urgent, and we at Rural Vermont are full of renewed energy and inspiration to help create a local food system that serves us all. If you believe in an agricultural economy in which success is not measured solely by what is extracted from the land and community, but also by what is returned for the benefit of everyone, please consider a donation to Rural Vermont today. Our goal is to raise $15,000 this summer.
Ben Hewitt, on behalf of all of us at Rural Vermont
P.S. While Groundswell was an all-consuming endeavor, that didn’t stop us from playing a role in many other important and relevant issues this year:
- We successfully advocated for improvements to Vermont’s poultry processing law, creating more economic opportunities for poultry producers and more access for their customers.
- We’ve joined the Vermont Human Rights Council to better collaborate on a broader spectrum of issues related to justice, equity, and human rights.
- We are directly involved in an on-going dialogue with the Agency of Agriculture and other farmer stakeholders to shape the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) so they focus on achieving crucial water quality goals while adapting to varying farm site conditions, practices, and other dynamics.
- We are maintaining our presence in the State House to keep on top of crucial legislative developments.
- We are ramping up our educational outreach on regenerative agriculture.