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Author Archives: Renee Bean

“Can’t Find It at the Store? Try Bartering For It.”

In an Aug. 3 New York Times article by A.C. Shilton, Front Porch Forum got a shout out as a platform that people successfully use to barter. When folks have too much zucchini but really need to borrow a hedge trimmer, FPF shines as a way for neighbors to help each other access what they need. Check out the excerpt from the article below:

Bartering hasn’t been this widespread since its days at the elementary-school lunch table. Front Porch Forum, a hyperlocal social network in Vermont and parts of New York that has long been a hub of bartering, has seen an 83 percent increase in new-member sign-ups this year over the same period last year, said Michael Wood-Lewis, who co-founded the site with his wife, Valerie, as a neighborhood listserv back in 2000. While Front Porch Forum is a way for neighbors to connect on a range of things, recently, appeals for swapping eggs for rhubarb or chicken wire for day lily bulbs have increased, Mr. Wood-Lewis said.”

Read the full article on the modern barter economy here.


“What Vermont and Its History Might Teach the Nation About Handling the Coronavirus”

Vermont has the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States and it begs the question “why?” In Bill McKibben’s July 28 article in The New Yorker, he explains the state of Vermont’s unique history and social structures that likely pay a big part in preventing the virus’s spread throughout the Green Mountains.

In addition to Phil Scott acting quickly when the first few cases appeared, McKibben credits much of the spread slow-down to neighborliness and social trust:

“Vermonters entered the pandemic with remarkably high levels of social trust. Only thirty-eight per cent of Americans say they mostly or completely trust their neighbors, but a 2018 Vermont survey found that seventy-eight per cent of residents think that “people in my neighborhood trust each other to be good neighbors”; sixty-nine per cent of Vermonters said that they knew most of their neighbors, compared with twenty-six per cent of Americans in general…

…All that is a reminder of how social trust has been squandered across so much of our nation as we’ve divided into red and blue teams, concentrated on individual advancement, and had our worst instincts yanked at by social media. In this case, Vermont is extremely lucky to be living a little in the past. The governor didn’t immediately mandate mask-wearing because almost everyone mandated it for themselves…”

Read Bill McKibben’s full article in the New Yorker here.


FPF Got a Makeover! Access your Forum three different ways

Since Front Porch Forum released the email forum redesign in June, we’ve heard lots of great feedback from members! See what some of your neighbors have to say about the new formatting:

“Way to go FPF! You are a star in our communities. As a generator of two posts a week, I find FPF an ideal forum to keep our communities informed. You Rock!!!!” • John H. from Charlotte/Shelburne, Vt.

“The great thing about FPF is anyone is welcome to post on subjects that are important to them; for some people it’s Doggy Play Dates or Free Plants, and for others it’s Community Health Issues. The new format and bold subject field enable you to peruse the page, read the posts that interest you, and skip the ones that don’t (or maybe be exposed to a different point of view.) Thanks, FPF, for the opportunity to connect and share.” • Joseph C. from Waterbury Center, Vt.

In addition to the email forum redesign, FPF has taken more steps to make the forum cleaner and easier to use. Last year, we released a mobile app, which can be download from the Apple® and Google Play® app stores. It’s changing the way many FPF members read their forums!

“Get the App…best thing since sliced bread. I will now be able to keep up with it daily. Thank you FPF”
• Tammy W. from Morrisville, Vt.

Lastly, FPF members can access their forum by logging in from our website https://frontporchforum.com. Submit a posting, search the archives, access the business directory, and more!


Pay It Forward: The Game of Goodwill Continues

A Montpelier neighbor on Front Porch Forum started a new game to inspire neighbors. Now, it’s spreading to towns all around Vermont! See some of the newest Pay It Forward postings from this game of goodwill, plus how to play, below!

“Free Invasives removal crew! Me and my team of muscley school age kiddos are trying to do daily invasive species removal (and get snacks for the cute and hungry goats!). 

If you see any invasive species on your property or the roadside, let us help get it out before it goes to seed! 

If you’ve already removed some and don’t know where to put it, come say hi and drop it off with the friendly goats! They will vocalize their delight at additional snacks, and it might sound like this: BAAAAAAAH! MAAAAAHHH!!   Just PAY IT FORWARD!” • Debbie in Richmond, Vt.

“My family made a couple of banana cream pies yesterday. I would love to share ONE with a member of our community. I’d happily and safely drop off the pie at your curb (in Stowe) if you’d enjoy having a sweet treat. With the idea that you accept my offering and pay it forward with your own offering 🙂

We’re playing a game to highlight and spread our community’s generosity and goodwill! Have a skill or item you’d like to brighten someone’s day with? Say, you could bake someone a dozen cookies, gift a bag of veggies from your garden, some pesto you made, a sketch or print, or offer a free lawn mow, an hour of weeding, or log splitting…we all have so many ways to contribute, and random acts of kindness make people happy. So let’s play!
” • Kim in Stowe, Vt.

“Last week I received a lovely kombucha SCOBY through this fun game, and now it’s fermenting away in my kombucha pot, so it’s my turn to pay it forward!

During the CoVid shutdown I have been rather compulsively knitting baby hats, mostly newborn size. I know it’s not exactly the season for these, but summer won’t last forever. (Sadly…summer is so lovely in Vermont!) I’ve got four or five to offer, so let me know if you can use one. I’ve made 13 total but some will be going to knitting4peace when they are once again accepting donations.” • Sarah in Montpelier, Vt.

“I have MIXED SUNFLOWER SEEDS, or MIXED MARIGOLD SEEDS that I have gleaned last year. A generous quantity…In small white business envelopes. Pickup/Dropoff in Richmond.
FREE, just PAY IT FORWARD!” • Laurie in Richmond, Vt.

How to play:
–We’re playing a game to highlight and spread our community’s generosity and goodwill! Have a skill or item you’d like to brighten someone’s day with? Say, you could bake someone a dozen cookies, gift a bag of veggies from your garden, some pesto you made, a sketch or print, or offer a free lawn mow, an hour of weeding, or log splitting…we all have so many ways to contribute, and random acts of kindness make people happy. So let’s play!

–Post “Pay it forward” in your subject line here on FPF, and copy and paste this “How to play” blurb at the end of your post, so that new folks can catch on. Offer an item or task up to the Montpelier FPF community at no charge.

–Note that you will take all recommended precautions in handling your pay it forward item or task to limit the spread of the corona virus, so folks feel comfortable accepting the goodness.

–When folks respond, deliver your item or task to them in a socially distant manner.

–Rejoice!” • Lauren in Montpelier, Vt.

Start playing in your neighborhood; post on FPF!


World Localization Day

June 21 is World Localization Day! This day is all about thinking globally but acting locally. Getting most of our food from local farmers, recirculating our money into the local economy as we spend on our day-to-day needs, and helping to grow meaningful employment opportunities.

It’s clear that there’s no “back to normal” So what comes next?

A new human story founded on the principles of connection and diversity is emerging. It’s called Localization.

Be part of this progressive, inspirational and life-affirming movement for change! Register to join this world-changing program of inspirational talks, interviews, films, humor and music.


“The Internet’s Missing Link in the Age of COVID-19”

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to adapt. An essential part of that adaptation is the use of technology to keep people connected without the face-to-face risk factors the coronavirus presents. Micah Sifry of Civic Hall observes the many challenges we all face as we navigate a global pandemic and the tech solutions that may help us move forward.

Sifry identifies Front Porch Forum as digital public infrastructure that can help communities thrive. See the excerpt below.

In all my years of reporting on how we use tech in civic life, one platform has stood out for how it has successfully fostered healthy community engagement while reaching significant scale: Vermont’s Front Porch Forum. Seventy percent of the state’s 260,000 households have an account on one of FPF’s local town or neighborhood forums, which are in every part of the rural state. Two years ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an in-depth study of FPF’s users, finding that their daily use of the site led to increased trust in their neighbors, increased interest in civic life, greater participation in local government, and increased optimism about the future. ‘Witnessing everyday acts of neighborliness is a powerful driver of both online and offline community engagement,’ the study concluded.

Last week, I checked in with its founder Michael Wood-Lewis and his chief innovation officer, Jason Van Driesche, to find out how they are weathering the current storm. After a brief dip in the site’s fortunes when the state went into lockdown in March, they were happy to report that even though no one was posting yard sales or local events, the type of information that has always been FPF’s bread-and-butter, user engagement was up. The number of net new signups per day doubled during the first weeks of the crisis, and posting is up considerably over the seasonable average, along with open rates.

Wood-Lewis and Van Driesche are also gratified to report that people are using the forum’s daily email bulletins to organize help for neighbors, share vital public health information, and fight isolation. They’ve decided to have their paid community moderators screen out misinformation about COVID, which Wood-Lewis said is ‘usually people getting stuff off of Facebook and sharing it with good intentions.’ They’re working on an array of service improvements, and also thinking hard about how to support the 10,000 local businesses, thousands of local officials and hundreds of nonprofits that use the site. ‘On a daily basis, most of the people in our state are giving us five to ten minutes of their attention,’ Wood-Lewis noted. But he and his team are frustrated that so much of FPF’s core mission, which is to bring neighbors together face-to-face, is stymied by the pandemic. ‘We know we’re successful when those real in-person things happen,’ he adds, so his team is trying to highlight local initiatives like safe scavenger hunts for kids and community claps for frontline workers.

Front Porch Forum’s model works because it keeps its forums to human size and speed, and it has paid moderators perusing every post before they reach subscribers. A typical instance has 500 to 1,000 people on it, all from the same town or neighborhood, and all verified, using their real names. Everyone sees the same content at the same time, Van Driesche pointed out; there’s no microtargeting of content. So while people still are people, and they may post things that get on their neighbors’ nerves, the general tenor of the site is ‘let’s pull together instead of knocking each other down.‘”

Read the full article here.


“Ode” to Our FPF

“I can find a house, a boat,
I can sell a fridge, a goat,
I found my super Subaru
I searched each day, and so can you!

Children grown, grandchildren too
Too much stuff, so what to do?
I’ll sell the crib, lego and bike,
Then I can buy that dress I like!

You want to share news of a bear,
A barn sale, concert, country fair
Lear how to hunt a good mushroom
Find a painter for your room

You need to get a ride to Lansing
Or new partner for some dancing
You say you need a plumber SOON
Ask “The Forum” and he’s there by noon!

I think you get the picture now
You know the “why”, find out the “how”.
And don’t forget “There’s no free lunch”,
Donate to help the Front Porch bunch!” • Alison in Charlotte, Vt.


Spring refresh: FPF’s Email Forum redesign

Change is afoot. Front Porch Forum is glad to present a new and improved Email Forum design today.

The daily FPF Email Forum has a new look.  At the same time, we’re keeping all the content and functionality that members have come to appreciate in place and easy to use.

This redesign is one step in a series of upgrades that FPF is making to deliver the highest quality service to our members. The new, simplified layout of the Email Forum is designed to make postings shine. We’ve also made it easier to compose postings, search the posting archive and more!

Other recent steps we’ve taken to improve our service:

  • Launched a mobile app, making FPF easier to read from a smartphone
  • Expanded our service to parts of upstate New York
  • Became a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation
  • Celebrated our 180,000th member (and counting!)
  • Continuing to grow our in-house team of software engineers
  • Serving as essential civic infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis

Already we’ve seen how these milestones and changes have helped us to fulfill our mission across the state in Vermont and in growing upstate New York forums. As the weeks go on, we look forward to sharing news on the additional updates and new features we’ll be rolling out to better serve you and our communities.  Next up… redesign of our website, including the posting archive and Web Forum.

Stay tuned for details about these and other exciting new features and updates. We eager to share our progress!

For more information on FPF’s growth and community impact over recent years, check out the following pieces:


Pay It Forward

When you need hope the most, look to your neighbors. Sometimes the most shining and inspiring demonstrations of hope are right outside our front doors. Do you want to spread some hope and uplift others? Check out this awesome game created by a Montpelier FPF member and feel free to try it in your own neighborhood!:

“In these strange times, with so many of us experiencing increased anxiety and overwhelm, I’m inspired by all the generosity and goodwill I see here on our FPF. It really helps. It gave me a fun idea, and I wonder if anyone would like to play along. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to have a pay-it-forward-style chain of giving around town–and FPF seems like a great tool by which to spread it.

Here’s how it could play out:
I love to bake sourdough bread. Do you know of someone who might really enjoy a surprise gluten-full delivery? (Yes, it can be you/your family, haha). Reply to me directly and I’ll drop some off on their/your stoop in a couple days, at no cost. Then, to continue the chain, you post about some thing or some (socially distant) task you can offer, and it goes and goes. If you’d like to play, please read the guidelines below.

So, consider my bread offer the start! Anyone know of a bread fiend who would really enjoy a homemade, crusty, whole-wheaty-y loaf? Let me know and I’ll get to bakin’. 🙂

Lauren

P.S. I follow recommended precautions to limit the spread of the corona virus, and will thoroughly wash hands before handling the baked loaf and will wear a mask for delivery. 🙂

Pay it forward
How to play:
–We’re playing a game to highlight and spread our community’s generosity and goodwill! Have a skill or item you’d like to brighten someone’s day with? Say, you could bake someone a dozen cookies, gift a bag of veggies from your garden, some pesto you made, a sketch or print, or offer a free lawn mow, an hour of weeding, or log splitting…we all have so many ways to contribute, and random acts of kindness make people happy. So let’s play!
–Post “Pay it forward” in your subject line here on FPF, and copy and paste this “How to play” blurb at the end of your post, so that new folks can catch on. Offer an item or task up to the Montpelier FPF community at no charge.
–Note that you will take all recommended precautions in handling your pay it forward item or task to limit the spread of the corona virus, so folks feel comfortable accepting the goodness.
–When folks respond, deliver your item or task to them in a socially distant manner.
–Rejoice!” • Lauren in Montpelier, Vt.

Start playing in your neighborhood; post on FPF!

Need some more inspiration? See how others have started to play the Pay it Forward game:

“Great idea…And fun game! We received an extremely tasty loaf of bread and some flourless cookies from Lauren. Thank you so much!

I have a plethora of Ramps in my woods and I have some Fiddleheads to pick. I’d be happy to pick a bag and deliver to you to grill or prepare as you’d like. So delicious! Just send me an email and then ‘Pay it Forward!'” • Chris and Suzie in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“We love Lauren’s idea and we’d like to play, too. My sweetheart and I would be happy to come to your house and stack your wood for two hours. We’ll wear masks and gloves while stacking. Reply to this email and then ‘Pay It Forward!'” • Nancy in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“Today I’m going to get some fiddleheads and ramps from someone and am offering up a few thing in gratitude to this awesome new FPF trend in our community.

I’ve got a box of strawberry starts that I got for free but then realized I had no time or tools to prep a bed in my yard. They seem, miraculously, to have survived.

If you have a home for them, I can put them on my front porch! I’m just off Berlin, about 1/2 mile from the food coop.”• Lisa in Montpelier, Vt.

Post your ‘pay it forward’ on FPF!


Reflections on Wandering Chickens and Gardens

With many of us finding more time on our hands, what better opportunity to reflect on ourselves and how we fit into the fabric of our communities? Keep reading to take in a beautiful reflection on the past, giving items a second life, and giving and receiving as part of a close-knit community. We are so grateful to witness these kinds of exchanges on Front Porch Forum!

“I don’t know why it does, since I have known it since moving to Vermont, but I am nevertheless continually surprised by the kindness, thoughtfulness and genuine humanity of our small community of people here. I grew up in South Africa as a privileged white person in the days of the Apartheid regime. But I worked for many years before leaving, as a teacher in the indigenous community that surrounded my home. And from them I learned (amongst other things) how to make something out of very little and always reuse anything that could have another life somehow.

And so, over the years I have developed a passion of my own for finding a use for things that someone else no longer has a use for.

Each time I have posted here, looking for something that might replace going out and buying another new “whatever”, I have received such wonderful responses and I want people to know how heartwarming and reassuring this has been. Particularly now in these times of such uncertainty and personal insecurity.

So thank you to those of you who have been so forthcoming, not just with physical objects, but with ideas, suggestions and perspectives that have all been so helpful. I will probably continue to post here when I think I might need something for our new garden or chicken project.

And of course I am constantly reading the posts of other people’s searches, to see if I could be on the other end, and find a home for something I no longer need.

My wife says that this is a part of me deeply engrained and unlikely to change, something regarding leopards and spots. I think I agree with her. Allen in Ferrisburgh, Vt.

 

Do you have an observation or reflection to share with your neighbors? Do you have something to give away or that you’re seeking for a project? Post about it on FPF!