OK, so here’s the deal. We’re stopping the trip and staying in Vermont. That’s it. Game over. Mission accomplished. I’ve chained Julie and Mark to a hydrangea bush in Burlington and traded in the Ford Escape Hybrid for a Subaru. I’ll be appearing weekly as a trapeze street performer on the Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian walk that makes the Santa Monica Promenade look like a Chuck E. Cheese. No offense Santa Monica, I love you too…really…but have you SEEN Burlington? She is smokin’! I’m not even kidding. The only place to get groceries downtown is this obscenely cool co-op – the third largest in the country. Dude, Burlington has 40,000 people…and THE THIRD LARGEST CO-OP! You know where it ranks in population? #817. Co-op size? NUMBER THREE!! Sorry, I’ll stop yelling. But doesn’t that just say it all?
Oh, and The Intervale? Don’t even get me started. It’s this 354-acre nirvana of farming awesomeness located IN the city. In the 1980’s it was a nasty, polluted, dangerous blight on Burlington until Will Raap led a charge to turn it into the second coming of Eden. It’s now a phenomenal training ground for independent, organic farmers. A farmer farm, if you will…and I hope you do. They, in turn, supply organic local produce to local schools, businesses, the co-op, even the local hospital. Not only that, they run an enormous community compost service, a conservation nursery for local flora, and a farming outreach program that empowers disadvantaged kids by connecting them to the joys of farming, the land, and their community.
And this kind of thing is happening EVERYWHERE in Vermont. Montpelier is currently engaged in the Eat Local Challenge where residents eat only food grown locally (within 100 miles) for a month. Oh yeah, and I found TEN MORE areas doing Eat Local challenges in Vermont. Even the power plant that looms over The Intervale is sustainability-minded. It’s a carbon-neutral 50 megawatt power plant that runs on sustainably harvested wood chips and locally collected scrap wood. And the staff at the power plant was about as kind and as open as could be. Touring a power plant has never felt so much like a big hug. In fact, today I went back to shoot a little bit more B-roll and got stopped by a guy driving one of the front loaders there. I thought he might give me a hard time and I’d probably have to do a little song and dance, but I had forgotten I was in Burlington. He came over, shook my hand, introduced himself, and told me how excited he was about what we were doing – just as happy as could be. Are you FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME?!?
One gets the unmistakable sense that this is a city (and a state) that knows how to protect what’s perfect and fix what ain’t. And the people in Burlington are about as fine as they come. Even the Mayor is approachable. He called us back himself to have us come talk with him. No secretary or middle man. Called us up. Just like that. Now THERE’S a public servant. Even his name is friendly – Bob Kiss. It just doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
And now, a haiku:
Bob in green vale Kissed
Trust land trusts here now always