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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Weathering the Recession: New Tools for Vermont Businesses

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is pulling together another dynamite conference this spring… On the Long Trail: Sustaining Success… May 5, 2009, at the Hilton Hotel on Battery Street in Burlington.

I’m thrilled to be leading a session with a great panel.  We aim to draw a knowledgeable and questioning crowd to assure a lively discussion.  Register here.

Weathering the Recession: New Tools for Vermont Businesses
Amy Kirschner, Vermont Sustainable Exchange
Jesse McDougall, Chelsea Green Publishing
Glenn McRae, Intervale Center’s Food Hub Program
Linda Rossi, Vermont Small Business Development Center
moderator: Michael Wood-Lewis, Front Porch Forum

The economic downturn sweeping the globe is not sparing the Vermont business sector. However, small and micro businesses in Vermont are far from powerless in the face of this recession. An emerging crop of new tools, many of them internet-based and developed by Vermonters, are providing new ways to cut costs, generate revenue, form partnerships, raise capital and weather these tight times. You’ll hear about services that match workers and jobs, buyers and sellers, and barter partners; give away unwanted inventory; raise capital; and more. Join the discussion, and take away concepts and tips for keeping up and getting ahead.


Roseto Community Good for Heart Health

Friend and colleague Linda Gionti is reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, Outliers.  She shared this with me…

It’s about a phenomenon discovered in Roseto, Pennsylvania in the 1950’s. It was a town made up of transplants from Roseto, Italy. One physician noted that he rarely saw heart disease in anyone under 65 from Roseto. Another doctor got curious about this, because that was virtually unheard of–this was the time before cholesterol-lowering drugs and heart attacks were an epidemic in the US. He studied the entire population of Roseto. They thought perhaps it was because they brought their Mediterranean diet  with them but no, the Rosetans had adopted American eating habits and had problems with obesity. So they started to look at Roseto itself.

“They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay  the town’s social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.”

“In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”

… “Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were–on what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.”

Good to think that our work with Front Porch Forum is helping people stay healthy!


Two-thirds of Vermont on Broadband; Most of State wants Fiber

According to new study from the UVM Center for Rural Studies, 66% of Vermont households surveyed report having high speed internet access.  About 79% said that broadband was available where they lived.

Overall nearly 82% of polled households have an Internet connection. Of connected households, 18% had dial-up, 24% had a cable modem, 42% had DSL, nearly 7% had satellite Internet, 6% had a wireless Internet service, and 3% had fiber-optic or some other service. Generally anything faster than dial-up is considered to be broadband, although speeds may vary.

Lots more detail in the survey results… e.g., 73% of “respondents were in favor of an effort exclusively in fiber-optic infrastructure.”


Obamas’ not the only veggie garden going in

We’re seeing more garden-related postings on Front Porch Forum this spring than in past years.  The economy?  The Obamas’ example?  The localvore movement?

For example, Kristen posted this note yesterday on the FPF Hinesburg Village Neighborhood Forum…

Seeking kitchen garden space
Thinking abou skipping putting in a garden this year? I’m looking for a prepared garden space and will trade keeping it well tended and some vegetables for getting to use it for the season. I’m tidy, quiet and experienced. I’d prefer a spot in the Village or on the east side of Town, but am open to other locations. Let me know if you have a site and would be interested in working out an arrangement. Thanks!

And already this morning she has two responses from nearby rural neighbors…

From Bill…
Hey Kristen – I’m actually planning to put in a small veggie garden on my property this year and could use some help if you’re interested.  I’ve been a perennials-only gardener to date so this will be a new experience for me.  I need to prep the area “from scratch” but I’ve got a great spot with beautiful southern exposure.  It’s probably a mile from town and an easy hop on a bike if you don’t want to get in the car.  Let me know if you’d like to check it out.

From Diane…
Hi Kristen, I am going to have a small garden where my veg. garden usually is but I am also going to plant a salad garden off my deck. That way it is closer to the house. I am willing to have more of the veg. garden tilled. So if you want to look at the space email me back. Thanks.


Local Online Services making Newspapers Irrelevant?

A neighborhood activist came home from a community meeting in Burlington tonight and she turned immediately to Front Porch Forum to inform her neighbors of the meeting’s outcome.  I was struck by her note that said, in part,…

Between Channel 17 [award-winning PEG Access station] and Front Porch Forum, the Free Press [Gannett-owned local daily newspaper] is no longer relevant!

I don’t think I’d go that far, but that kind of comment is heard more and more.


neighborhood rallies for good cause quickly

Amy posted a note on Front Porch Forum seeking donations yesterday in Burlington’s South End.  Today she followed up with this…

Thanks so much for your generous response to my request for household goods for Bethan, the young mother in need.  We had a great time yesterday driving around picking things up from all you kind folks.  It was like being Santa in reverse.  Then we set her up in her new apartment and voila, a functional home.  I know this request came on no notice.  It’s great to know a neighborhood can rally for a good cause so quickly.  On behalf of Bethan and her baby, thank you all.


Bear Market finally hits Baldwin Rd

Bill’s not letting the economy — or a bear attack — get him down (as posted to his Hinesburg neighbors on Front Porch Forum today)…

Bear Market finally hits Baldwin Rd

Delighted with the Budd and Schubart bird delis and their cornucopia of curious feeding devices, a hungry black bear, out for a Saturday evening ramble on the old French Farm, made short work of the feeders and poles, leaving a scattered array of mangled metal and plastic on the deck and front lawn of each residence and making a great deal of noise. Great fun.

Bill@Schubart.com
http://www.Schubart.com


habitual preoccupation with self

From Scott Heiferman

Dalai Lama: “the great movements of the last hundred years and more – democracy, liberalism, socialism – have all failed to deliver the universal benefits they were supposed to provide, despite many wonderful ideas… What I propose is… a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self. It is a call to turn toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.”


BeLocal: citizen empowerment through digital media

BeLocal three circles

Kevin Harris blogs today

“I’m involved in a new initiative to try and help maximise the potential of digital media for community engagement. In recent weeks I’ve been working with Simon Grice, Steven Feldman and Hugh Flouch (Harringay Online) to set up BeLocal Consulting, starting with a series of workshops. Here’s the blurb:

“BeLocal Consulting contributes to the community empowerment agenda by helping local authorities, community groups and citizens to exploit digital media around community issues.

“With a combination of expertise in community development, new media and service management, we help local authorities through the following process:

  1. Understanding the issues
  2. Establishing partnerships and building a strategy
  3. Supporting implementation of the strategy
  4. Assessment and review.”

“Now is the time for experiments” -Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky’s much blogged about essay about newspapers is — surprising for a topic so over analyzed — fresh and mind-opening…

… there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.

Journalism has always been subsidized. Sometimes it’s been Wal-Mart and the kid with the bike. Sometimes it’s been Richard Mellon Scaife. Increasingly, it’s you and me, donating our time. The list of models that are obviously working today, like Consumer Reports and NPR, like ProPublica and WikiLeaks, can’t be expanded to cover any general case, but then nothing is going to cover the general case.

It’s a thrill to be deeply involved in one such experiment… Front Porch Forum.