In the midst of torrential downpours on an evening in late October, 60+ hearty Rural Vermont members and friends gathered at the Tunbridge Town Hall for Rural Vermont’s Annual Meeting & Celebration.
Following a potluck dinner, Rural Vermont announced the release of its much anticipated Groundswell Report and debuted its video, "Digging Into Rural Vermont's Groundswell: Findings & What's Next".This short video presents Rural Vermont's vision for agriculture, what was heard from the 500+ Vermonters who participated in the early 2017 Groundswell community conversation tour, and how this feedback is informing the organization’s priorities and plans for the months and years ahead. It features the fast-paced illustration of Erik "erok" Gillard, was produced by Gregg Stevens and Mt Mansfield Community TV, and was funded by a City Market Seedling grant. Links to the report and video can be found at www.ruralvermont.org.
Rural Vermont thanked several outgoing Board members for their years of service and elected six new members to the Board of Directors, including Cat Buxton of Sharon, Elena Gustavson of Montpelier, Kate MacLean and Nick Zigelbaum of Chelsea, Derek O’Toole of Braintree, Meghan Stoko of Glover, and Chris Wood of Tunbridge.
The recipient of Rural Vermont's 2017 Jack Starr Award, presented each year at the Annual Meeting and given for outstanding effort, effectiveness, and work in the realms of agriculture, justice, organizing, and policy in VT, was Migrant Justice.
Migrant Justice is a farm-worker led advocacy and organizing force. It describes part of its mission as, "to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights." Since its founding in 2009, Migrant Justice has achieved significant gains over the years in meeting the goals defined by its own members - the migrant farm-worker community. This past year, Rural Vermont has been honored to support Migrant Justice in its work on the Milk with Dignity program, its opposition to the extension of the H2A program into Dairy, and to sit with its members and spokespeople at the Human Rights Council.
The award was presented to Enrique Balcazar and Will Lambek, on behalf of Migrant Justice, by Rural Vermont Field Organizer Graham Unangst-Rufenacht: “As a farmer, organizer, and member of the Vermont community – when I am tired, when I don’t know how to make the time to come out to a meeting, or a protest; when I am feeling intimidated to speak my mind, or to testify before committee; when I am frustrated by the lack of progress; when I am spending time with my family and friends, or working on the farm – I think of Migrant Justice. I think of the migrant farmworkers who work longer hours than I, and who risk their lives in Vermont, who risk their livelihoods, each time they come out to a meeting, to a protest, to the Statehouse, to a gathering, to work. And I understand, a little more, what is at stake for all of us in this work we do – on the land, together, in our own hearts – and I am inspired to do more. There is no agricultural justice without stakeholder status, human rights, and equity for all involved in the agricultural community. Migrant farmworkers are Vermonters, they are members of our families, and our communities – they make their home here, and we welcome them, and express our solidarity with them, and their efforts at achieving justice, human rights, and equity.”
Rural Vermont’s mission is to lead the resurgence of community-scale agriculture through education, advocacy, and organizing in support of Vermonters living in deep connection to one another and to the land that nourishes us all. For more info or to view the “Digging In” video, please visit www.ruralvermont.org.