Rutland Renaissance

What a day in Rutland!

I am so thankful to have met a group of positive, forward-thinking younger people in Rutland.  It is because of these folks that I ended up at the two events I attended today.  First, at 3:00 p.m., I went to the chambers of the Board of Aldermans – a first for me.  The room filled up, and I got to sit next to my buddy, the sweet AJ Marro.

Rutland City Board of Aldermen

Steve Costello, someone who has been proactive in his promotion of Rutland, made the announcement that Green Mountain Power in little old Rutland, Vermont has been named Utility of the Year by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). SEPA President and CEO Julia Hamm was quoted as saying, “Though it is one of the smallest investor-owned utilities in the country, Green Mountain Power has demonstrated a disproportionately large commitment to clean, renewable solar energy, customer choice and the communities it serves.”  How very cool, right?

Steve Costello - Green Mountain Power

Then at 5:00 p.m., I headed over to the Vermont Farmers Food Center on West Street for a forum that was being called Rutland Renaissance.  Attendance was great, and there was a panel of wonderful local heroes.  They were Greg Cox of Vermont Farmers Food Center, Chris Meehan of VT Food Bank, Joe Fusco of Casella Resource Solutions, Paul Gallo of Rutland Creative Economy, Lyle Jepson of Stafford Technical Center, and Dr. Mark Logan of Sanctuary Integrative Medicine.

Rutland Renaissance

I will try to be brief as I highlight some of the wonderful things that were said.  First, Greg Cox outlined some of the initiatives he is pursuing at the Food Center.  “We really believe in Rutland,” Cox said of the group of farmers involved with the Food Center.  “Agriculture can be an economic engine in the future.”  Some of their plans include renovating one of the onsite buildings into a commercial kitchen for use in processing local food products.  He wants to involve Stafford’s culinary program.  He also mentioned the possibility of a Vermont Food Train that would deliver fresh produce to Manhattan, reestablishing historical food markets.  Another onsite building would be used for food storage and aggregation.

Lyle Jepson said that his students would love to work on any projects at the Food Center.  While building the brand for Stafford’s Dollhouse Restaurant, Jepson is open to the possibility of further integration with the Food Center.  While touting how much the students at Stafford like to volunteer, he said, “We need to emphasize the positive about our students.”

Paul Gallo wants Rutland to promote itself as a destination for outdoor recreation.  (This is not the first time I’ve heard the same thing this week.)  “I believe we’re a recreation mecca.”

Dr. Logan wants Rutlanders to be healthy, and that starts with healthy food.  When describing what goes on at Sanctuary, he said, “We get people off pills.”

Chris Meehan shared that Vermont Food Shelf is shifting its focus to fresh foods and produce.  The food bank is currently working to open a distribution center in Rutland.

Rutland Renaissance

I am continually impressed with Joe Fusco.  I love working for myself, so I rarely ever say this, but I would probably love working for this man.  He shared that after analyzing their business model several years ago, Casella realized that the model was not sustainable because it was built around the need for people to consume.  They knew that the world wasn’t a bottomless pit of resources, so they changed their focus to resource management and will be getting into the composting game as well.  Joe’s final message, which resonated completely with me (and gave me an enormous sense of validity!) was, “Don’t wait for permission [to make change].”  This is pretty much the way I operate.  It doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I get things done and usually very effectively.

Chris Meehan’s sage closing suggestion was, “Make sure everyone has a voice.  Give everyone an opportunity to participate in the renaissance.”  She was referring particularly to those in the positions of least power and influence.

Rutland on the rise

Other than the speakers, there were some awesome folks in attendance.  One retired farmer, in particular, said that Vermont would be wise to grow almost all of their own food as an insurance policy against the natural disasters that wipe out agriculture in other parts of the world.  I think he’s onto something there.

All in all, this was a great first event.  It got people thinking about possibilities and engaging in the process.  Kudos to all those who made it happen.

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