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Author Archives: Renee Bean


VT Farmers: Apply by Oct. 1 for State COVID-19 Relief Grants

It’s not too late! The Dairy Assistance Application and Agriculture and Working Lands Applications are now live. The deadline to apply for these funds, part of Vermont’s COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP), is Oct. 1, 2020. These grants are intended to stabilize agricultural businesses and organizations based on their lost revenues and expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Learn more here.

If you have neighbors in your community who could benefit from this information, or other helpful info to share, post it on your neighborhood FPF!


Front Porch Forum Expands Engineering Team

Front Porch Forum’s tech team is growing! Two more software engineers, Noah Harrison and Aaron Lipman, have joined FPF to continue upgrading and expanding our custom-built mobile, web and email platforms to better serve our social mission.

Since 2006, FPF has been helping neighbors connect and build community by hosting a statewide network of online local forums. Out of Vermont’s 260,000 households, FPF has more than 190,000 members.  As part of FPF’s 20 staff members, our software developers play a crucial role in providing high-quality service and developing relevant new features for members across all of Vermont and parts of surrounding states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Hires:  Aaron Lipman and Noah Harrison

Noah and Aaron each work closely with Lead Engineer and Tech Team Manager, Matt Barry, and tech advisor, Jan Schultz. Together they maintain and improve FPF’s unique web and mobile applications, which are used by more than half of the households in Vermont on a daily basis. Stay posted for new features and updates!

Noah, who is working with email integration and web browser technologies, says “I really enjoy the direct appeal that FPF forums have to many of my friends and neighbors.”

Noah comes to Front Porch Forum after ten years as a software developer and project manager consultant for various companies, including projects for NBCUniversal and on a 3D globe projector.  He earned a degree from Dartmouth College, having studied Classics, Religion, and Computer Science.

On his new role, Aaron remarks “I consider myself privileged to work on a platform that helps Vermonters work together in weathering events from Hurricane Irene to the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Aaron has a background in electoral data modeling and a passion for writing software that strengthens communities. Outside of Front Porch Forum, Aaron contributes to several open source projects. When not writing code, Aaron enjoys road biking.

Front Porch Forum is an award-winning Vermont Public Benefit Corporation.  Our mission is to help neighbors connect and build community, leading to more resilient communities.  FPF hosts regional networks of online local forums where neighbors, small businesses, nonprofits and municipal officials post about a wide variety of topics.  This daily neighborly exchange leads to people feeling more invested in their communities and getting more involved.


Scat Whisperers

Front Porch Forum is a way to connect with neighbors on community efforts, local issues, and…scat identification? One curious neighbor asked for help discovering what kind of animal had been in their backyard, and got a huge and helpful response on their neighborhood forum! Check out the story below.

“Well, if you want to gather a crowd, just show up with a little scat.

I received 17 unique offers of help analyzing the scat photo. Each was serious and wonderfully curious in their pursuit of an answer.

The identifications offered included: skunk, raccoon, feral cat, weasel, coyote, red fox, grey fox and bobcat, after our neighbor reminded me that we had a beautiful bobcat sitting in a maple across from our barn a year ago.. Catamount was ruled out.

Several folks forwarded the picture to several other more expert folks who responded with a more focused belief that it was either a skunk or a raccoon but most likely a raccoon.

My thanks to everyone who replied to my ask. It was great to touch base with so many old friends that, due to circumstances, have been out of touch.

FPF is a force for good and re-tightening community. Thank you.” • Phil in Craftsbury, Vt.

Have a question you could use some input on? Try asking neighbors on your local FPF.


“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.