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Sustainability Initiatives Under Way in Montpelier

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Last night marked the inaugural meeting of the Central Vermont Food Systems Council. Coordinated by Andy Harper of the Montpelier nonprofit Food Works at Two Rivers Center, the grassroots group aims to expand the region's network of affordable, sustainably produced food.

Both the council and "Transition Town Montpelier," a related Central Vermont sustainability initiative, were funded last fall through "enVision Montpelier," the Capital City's long-term planning project. Both initiatives are funded in part by a New Jersey foundation. (For more info, see this "Transition Vermont" website.)

Carl Etnier, a member of Transition Town Montpelier's five-member "initiating group," says the organization is brainstorming ideas about how Central Vermont should adapt to the effects of peak oil. On November 24, Etnier reports, 220 people came to Montpelier to hear a lecture by Naresh Giangrande, a co-founder of the global "Transition Town" movement. On March 7 and 8, TT Montpelier hosted a two-day training and encouraged participants to read The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience, a book by English scholar Rob Hopkins.

"Starting a Transition Town is like planting tiny, black brassica seeds on a steep slope and not knowing whether they will grow into mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, or rutabagas," Etnier wrote in a February 23 Vermont Commons article. "We have faith they’ll grow into something tasty, and the plants will hold the soil in place, keeping the mountain from moving downhill."

Transition Town Montpelier has two events planned for the coming weeks. At 6:30 p.m. on March 30 at Montpelier's Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Mark Krawczyk, a permaculture instructor from Burlington, will talk about how to turn lawns into gardens. On Saturday, April 4, at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, TT Montpelier hosts its first monthly meeting on "reskilling issues." (Potential discussion topics: "backyard chickening" and gardening on the Statehouse lawn.) The meeting was scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Etnier says, so that attendees can shop at the nearby Capital City Farmers' Market.

"The snow is starting to go, and people's fingers — like mine — are itching to get into soil," says Etnier. "We're thinking about how we can practically respond to the economic crisis, which we've seen deepen a lot since the last growing season."

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