350VT Zine #4 — Grounded: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


“To liberate the soil and to liberate our souls we must decolonize our imaginations, remember our way forward and divorce ourselves from the comforts of empire. We must trust that deep in our cultures and ancestries is the diverse wisdom we need to navigate our way towards a world where we live in just relationships with each other and with the earth.” —Climate Justice Alliance, climatejusticealliance.org/ just-transition

Organizing for a Just Transition The Climate Justice Alliance, a network of organizations and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis, calls for us to move from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy through a transition that is “just and equitable ... redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations.” This Just Transitions framework offers a powerful guide for organizing both against harmful systems and for systems that support equity and the thriving of life. 350Vermont is mobilizing Vermonters to call for action on the climate crisis that is bold, equitable, and aligned with Just Transition principles. This zine offers a powerful and exciting perspective on our Just Transition work. Transforming our relationships with the land is a foundational part of the systems change that we’re working toward. As the Climate Justice Alliance writes on their website, a Just Transition “must advance ecological resilience, reduce resource consumption, restore biodiversity and traditional ways of life, and undermine extractive economies, including capitalism, that erode the ecological basis of our collective well-being.” We invite you to reflect on how your relationship with land impacts our climate crisis and the ways you organize to address it. Learn more and get involved in co-creating climate justice at 350vermont.org. —Lily, Sonia, & the 350VT staff

Dear Reader, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space, spent eight days orbiting Earth in the Endeavor in 1992. “Once I got into space, I was feeling very comfortable in the universe,” she said later. “I felt like I had a right to be anywhere in this universe, that I belonged here as much as any speck of stardust, any comet, any planet.” Comfort and belonging can be hard to find for us humans in these days of social and ecological crisis. For centuries, European settler culture has divided “man” from “nature” and set them in opposition to each other. The natural world has become a “resource” whose main purpose is the enrichment of primarily white male humans. This mindset of separation and exploitation has brought humanity to its current state: on the brink of destroying the planetary systems we depend on and plagued by guilt, isolation, apathy, anger, and fear. Climate justice calls on us to find our way into a different relationship with the land around us, one that nourishes and grounds us as we build a more sustainable and equitable world. Everywhere we turn we are faced with legacies of injustice: Vermont is land stolen from the Abenaki people, many of whom are still here; our country is built on slave labor; economic and racial oppression perpetuate generational cycles of trauma. In order to grow a healthier system, we need to put down strong roots into rich soil. We need to remember that Indigenous peoples lived in harmony with their ecosystems for thousands of years (and some are still doing so). Ecological destruction is not an inevitable byproduct of human society. For this issue of the zine, we asked Vermonters to share how they are working and relating with the land in transformative ways, how they are replacing the myth of separation and the practices of exploitation with systems and mindsets that prioritize equity, sustainability, resiliency, community, and connection with the Earth. In this issue, you’ll read about a BIPOC* community farm, invasive-caterpillar-eating chickens, an Abenaki basket maker’s relationship with the black ash tree, a city that grows food for its seniors, arboreal heat-sickness prevention, and how three artists are imagining racial justice into being, among many other stories. We hope you are as inspired as we were to get involved and ground yourself in a new relationship with the ecosystems you are part of. All of us — from people to protozoa, bats to bacteria, fir trees to fungi — belong on this planet. Let’s build a future in which we can all flourish.

—Marisa Keller, editor, and the rest of the 350Vermont Zine Team: Dana Dwinell-Yardley, designer Lily Jacobson, 350VT staff Eva Morgan, 350VT summer fellow Marcy Kass, supporting designer *We use the term BIPOC throughout this zine to refer to Black and Indigenous people and other people of color.

© 2021 by 350Vermont 350vermont.org 179 South Winooski Avenue, Suite 201, Burlington, VT 05401 Questions & comments welcome: email lily@350vt.org

COVER: Jabari Saeed Jones tends the callaloo at SUSU commUNITY Farm. Read more about SUSU starting on page 8.


Contents 2 Maahlakwsak Abaziak / Black Ash by Kerry Royce Wood

4 Abaznodaal / Baskets by Joseph Bruchac

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The Power of Purslane

by Peter Jenkins

6 Community Canopy for All Vermonters by Joanne Garton

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Dreaming Black Gold: SUSU commUNITY Farm by Amber Arnold & Naomi Moody

14 Land Based by Rebecca Jones

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Mother Heart

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by Kate Adams

Apologize

by Ariel Burgess

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‘I Can Be Here’: Creating Safe Spaces for BIPOC in Vermont

interview with Cori Ready & Kenya Lazuli by Marisa D. Keller

22 Home for the Pollinators by Alice Barbera

23 Minding Their B’s by Eva Morgan

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The Woods Behind Our House

by Marcy Kass

Food for the FEAST by Sarah Lipton

30 Ogre in the Forest by Lucy Norman

The Path of a Portal 34 Earthworm

by Greg Delanty

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35 With Whose Blood Were My Eyes Crafted?

by Kristian Brevik

Rewild Vermont

by 350Vermont staff

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Maahlakwsak Abaziak

Black Ash BY K E R RY ROYC E WO O D

Note: This essay is adapted from a presentation given as part of the webinar Black Ash: Research and Cultural Practices in the Face of Emerald Ash Borer, on May 19, 2021.

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aahlakwsak abaziak, the black ash trees, hold significance for my people. We are Alnôbak moskijik maahlakwsikok — Abenaki people who emerge from the ash.

When Talbodak, the owner-creator, made the world, he made the mountains, the trees, and the animal people. But something was missing. The Earth was not complete. He decided it was time to make the human beings. He looked around for something to shape them with. There were the stones. He piled stones large and high, and breathing the wind of life onto them, he stirred the spirits of the stones to wake. The stones rose, and began to move. They were large and strong, and walked the Earth with terrible power. But they were hard and unfeeling. They did not care where they stepped. The owner-creator was not pleased. He shook the Earth until the stone people were destroyed. Talbodak decided to try again. This time he chose to shape the people from the ash tree. These people of ash were growing and green, in harmony with their mother, the Earth. Their skins were soft and breathed in all of life. They shared their breath with all the living things. Their limbs were supple and strong, and they danced like leaves in the wind. They say Talbadok shot an arrow into the ash tree and out came people of all colors: red, white, yellow, brown and black, as you can see the colors in the wood of a freshly harvested tree today.*

Alnôbak moskijik maahlakwsikok: Abenaki people who emerge from the ash trees. They say there are still stone people among us today: those who do not care for all our relations and see Mother Earth as a commodity to be used for personal gain. And there are still tree people: those who understand we are all related and that our actions affect all today and future generations, who harvest only what is needed, give thanks, and share gifts. The Abenaki, and many other northeast woodland nations, rely on the black ash for making traditional and contemporary baskets and on other ash trees for snowshoes, canoe rims, and tools. My greatgrandmother, Elvine Obomsawin, and her siblings Malian and William Simon made a meager living as basket makers from the early to mid 1900s in Thompson’s Point, Charlotte. It is basket making and my ancestors speaking from the ash that provided a window into my family history and culture and started my journey of reclaiming who I am and whence I have come. You see, I share a story with many who are Abenaki in Vermont. I grew up an average middle-class white American. My maiden name is Royce. In school, I and even my children were taught that no Indigenous people ever lived in Vermont; they just passed through. The Abenaki people were invisible. My grandfather was born Ellsworth Clarence Obomsawin. He was raised by his mother and her family in the Abenaki ways. Yet it was not an easy time to be identified as an Indian in Vermont. My grandfather experienced prejudice and discrimination in grade school and saw firsthand the impact of the eugenics movement. When he returned from serving in World War II, he legally changed his name from Obomsawin to the name of his stepfather, Royce. Ellsworth’s original birth certificate lists him as Indian. His revised birth certificate in 1945 lists him as white. My grandfather made a difficult choice due to the climate of the world; he wanted what we all want for our families: a chance to make a decent living and to be safe in the world we live in. For the future of his

*Kchi wliwni (great thanks) to Jesse Bruchac for the telling of this story.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


family, my grandfather felt he had to choose to leave behind his Abenaki heritage. He never spoke of being Abenaki to me: “the past is the past, and that is not to be spoken of.” Yet he taught me much of the ways of Abenaki in how he lived: he deeply respected all our relations, only took what was needed to feed his family, wasted nothing, always gave of his time, and shared his knowledge. When I was in high school, I visited my Great-Aunt Nettie, my grandfather’s youngest sister. She had beautiful small baskets all around her home. It is Aunt Nettie who first told me of our family being Abenaki as she shared the stories of her childhood and how my great-grandmother made these baskets. Nettie’s daughter, Jeanne Brink, learned how to make traditional Abenaki baskets with Sophie Nolette, from Odanak, at a time when few basket makers remained in Vermont. Jeanne has gone on to teach twentyseven apprentices, all Abenaki, how to make baskets. I had the privilege to serve as an apprentice under Jeanne Brink to learn Abenaki ash and sweetgrass basket making with two of my children starting in 2013. When I started it was simply an interesting part of my family heritage. Yet as I processed the splints from ash trees, pounding the log, peeling strips, separating strips, gauging to size and finally leskanawa — weaving the splints — I discovered I was on a transformative journey. Ash and basketry teach patience, perseverance, resilience; provide medicine for the soul and finances for the family; and connect alnôba with their culture. As I wove the baskets, I felt as if my ancestors were reaching out to me. Jeanne shared stories, and I started to learn Alnôbaôdwa, the language of the Western Abenaki people. My perspective shifted to recognizing I am but a part of the life circle among all my relations, and all of life is about relationship. I started the journey to reclaim what has been lost for three generations due to my grandfather’s difficult choice. Nd’ainbna iodali: we are still here! Black ash has brought me home to my people. Ash is critical to who we are; I am teaching my children and grandchildren how to process ash and to make baskets. For our culture to survive and thrive, my grandchildren need black ash available to teach their grandchildren. While the Abenaki of Vermont are still here, it has been a long journey for others to acknowledge this. Four of the Abenaki tribes in Vermont finally received state recognition in 2011 and 2012; not even a full decade has passed since then.

We do not have ownership of tribal land. We do not have groves of ash trees. We do not all live in the same community. We do not have federal recognition; therefore, we have no federal dollars to help combat the impact of the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive beetle that destroys ash trees. We do have obligations: I have an obligation to remember those who have gone before me, to serve past, present, and future generations, and to share what I learn about abaznodaka — basket making —and thus about Abenaki. There are only a few Abenaki basket makers remaining in Vermont; I hope to change that and continue what Jeanne Brink started — to teach others the Abenaki way of basketry. The Abenaki community in Vermont will not be successful in saving seeds, protecting trees, protecting the ecosystem that black ash trees uniquely support, and creating solutions for future generations by ourselves. There are not enough of us, and we have no financial resources. I have hope as Vermonters are beginning to recognize that nd’ainbna iodali. We will need partnerships with our neighbors across Vermont (and New Hampshire). If we can educate those who own the land where ash trees grow, teach them how to identify their trees and that ash trees can be treated for EAB, and ask them, if they choose to harvest a black ash tree, to reach out to the Indigenous community before pulping it up, we may be able to prepare splint for future generations and to discover solutions for maahlakws to remain for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Kerry Royce Wood, called Kelly Abazi in the Abenaki language, lives in Colchester near Lake Champlain, the western edge of the land of the Wabanaki people. She is a member of the Nulhegan Coosuk Abenaki Nation.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Abaznodaal / Baskets BY J O S E P H B R U C H AC

Waligek abaznoda gagalnemenal

A good basket holds

abaznodakat w'eljial

its maker’s hands

n8bi gassakwad leskanawabanik kassiwi,

like fingers knit together,

leskanaw8ganal wji wigbiak

splints of pounded ashwood

gagalna l8giado awanek,

grasp a shape in air,

wiwnigiwihl8

coiling around

bedigwow8gan wji agwanbiwial

the circle of seasons

nspiwi wlim8gilskikoal ta pakwaaskw wanibagol.

with sweetgrass and cat-tail leaves.

Minagwiba awak8ganal

Although machines

wlito abaznoda l8giadoal

make basket shapes

8daba w'klozowiak

they cannot speak

kassiwi niwaskok

to the spirits

wji abazi, mskiko,

of the wood, the grass, the reeds and ask

az8naskol wji nadodamawa

them to agree to hold

w'pakaldamikh8 gagalnemenawal

the years and all the loads

gassigaden ta mezi mijebikaw8ganal

the way a human being can

ta8lawi aln8ba kizi

when the weave is swift and sure

t8ni adoji leskanawa kezihla ta s8glizit

and patterns catch and hold

ta lawigh8zoal pithena ta gagalna

about a song.

lintow8ganek. For over forty years, Joseph Bruchac has been creating literature and music that reflect his Indigenous heritage and traditions. He is a proud Nulhegan Abenaki citizen and respected elder among his people. He is the author of more than 120 books for children and adults and lives in Greenfield Center, N.Y. This poem was originally published in Nisnol Siboal / Two Rivers (2011, Bowman Books).

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


The Power of

Purslane WO R DS & A RT BY P E T E R J E N K I N S

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find carrots challenging to grow. Their small seeds take longer to germinate than most, and by the time their feathery fronds are up and growing, I find an abundance of weeds threatening to overtake them. However, this year I am trying to see weeds as my teacher and not just a nuisance. I have learned that nature’s response to bare soil in our climate is to cover it with vegetation as quickly as possible. As a beginning farmer, I want to facilitate this with the vegetables and cover crops that I grow. There are many benefits to covering the soil with living plants: the shade of their leaves helps cool the soil and retain moisture; their roots support a (hopefully) complex soil biology; and they fix atmospheric carbon and, in the case of legumes, nitrogen. Not to mention that every farmer and gardener wants full beds bursting with vegetables for all that work. However, sometimes the vegetables I seed do not germinate nearly as well as the weeds, which generally do a much faster job of covering the bare soil with photosynthesizing greenery. This spring, while studying my sparse, delicate carrot seedlings, I see that almost every inch of bare soil in between has a weed seedling with minute jade-plant-like oval leaves. This is common purslane, Portulaca oleracea, the perfect weed for quickly covering bare ground in our increasingly hot and dry springs. As purslane grows, its branches radiate out in all directions like the spokes of a wheel, becoming

the size of a dinner plate and overlapping with its neighbors to form a solid mat. The more I learn about purslane the more I wonder if I should be growing this amazing plant instead of carrots. In addition to rapidly covering the soil after disturbance, purslane is reported to have the highest omega-3 fatty acids of any vegetable. Its slightly sour taste and crunchy texture make a nice addition to salads and stir-fries alike. So I am leaving the purslane growing as a ground cover under my carrots for now. Maybe it will choke them out or maybe it will keep the soil cool and moist as the carrots grow — time will tell. Meanwhile, I am making some good purslane pesto!

Peter Jenkins lives in Westford (unceded Abenaki land). He started Cat’s Meow Farm in 2020 and attempts to grow a diverse selection of vegetables on half an acre for local CSA members. Peter also works as a gleaning coordinator with the Healthy Roots Collaborative. When not farming or moving produce around northwestern Vermont, Peter enjoys hikes with his wife, Amanda, and snuggles with their Siamese cats, Myron and Lester.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Community Canopy for All Vermonters BY J OA N N E G A R TO N

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silver sedan pulled up to our card table set on the edge of a grove of northern white cedars providing a swath of shade to our workspace. An energetic woman jumped out of the sedan, eagerly looking for which two trees would go home with her. She spoke excitedly about the river birches she chose, asked questions about how they would grow and where she should store them until she could plant them. Together, we wedged the trees into her car and waved as she slowly drove off toward her home one and a half miles away in Newport. Little bits of loose straw trailed behind her, and we knew these trees would be cared for as they grew into their majestic selves. The Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program runs the Vermont Community Canopy event at least once a year, giving away 150 containerized trees to residents of

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selected municipalities. The Arbor Day Foundation administers the program nationwide and sources the young trees. But this tree giveaway is about more than feel-good moments on the day of the event. Funded by the Vermont Department of Health, the trees go to residents of communities identified by their elevated risk of heat-related illness. The Vermont Heat Vulnerability Index1 uses data from six categories to create a composite statewide map of overall vulnerability of Vermont residents to heatrelated events classified by town, including population characteristics, socioeconomic characteristics, health conditions, environmental characteristics, climate characteristics, and observed heat illness. Compared to those in less vulnerable communities, residents of heat-vulnerable municipalities are more likely to spend more money to cool their homes. Those without air conditioning are at greater risk of heatrelated emergency department visits. This tree giveaway program was first called Energy Saving Trees, in reference to the fact that when planted properly and strategically, a single mature tree can save up to 20 percent2 of energy costs dedicated to cooling a building. Planting trees also adds to a property’s value, reduces the carbon footprint of the building inhabitants, improves air

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


quality, reduces stormwater runoff, and provides food and shelter for wildlife. More subjectively, trees add beauty, character, history, and community canopy for all who walk by. But access to trees is not equal; tree canopy cover in urban or suburban areas often reflects divisions in race and income among residents. Newly released tree canopy cover and socioeconomic data3 for populations within Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, Winooski, Essex Junction, and Williston are informing where and how the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program targets outreach for the next round of Vermont Community Canopy tree giveaways this fall in Winooski, Burlington, and Colchester. These tree equity scores,4 as defined by the national nonprofit American Forests, reveal whether there are enough trees for everyone in a region to experience the health, economic, and climate benefits that trees provide. Like any project that connects people to nature, there are many organizational hours spent at the computer finding the money and partners that will make investments in nature in our built environments most successful. Digging deep during these times ensures that people who leave the event with young trees for their yards, parks, streets, or farms feel confident in their ability to care for these trees and are excited about their investment. Planting the right tree in the right place can only happen if all communities are considered and included, if all concerns are valued, and if all benefits are fairly distributed. One tree at a time (or two if that was you in the silver sedan), we’re seeing people connect to the land where they live, plant and grow in the communities they want to inhabit, and care for a resilient tree canopy that will exist for all Vermonters, present and future.

1. Vermont Department of Health. bit.ly/2U0xzIr 2. Arbor Day Foundation, Community Canopy. bit.ly/3jzL9ez 3. Tree Equity Score. bit.ly/37qApta 4. American Forests. bit.ly/3yx3Zci

Joanne Garton is the technical assistance coordinator for the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program, a partnership between Vermont Forests, Parks & Recreation and University of Vermont Extension. She lives in Montpelier and loves trees, rocks, and music. Learn more at vtcommunityforestry.org.

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Dreaming Black Gold

SUSU commUNITY Farm BY A M B E R A R N O LD & N AO M I M O O DY

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he SUSU commUNITY Farm is an Afro Indigenous stewarded farm and land-based healing center in southern Vermont that elevates Vermont’s land and foodways. We do this by co-creating a life-affirming and culturally relevant platform for Black, Indigenous, people of color, youth, underresourced folx, and allies to thrive and experience safety and connection while beginning to develop the tools and agency to heal from the trauma of colonization. Through collective commUNITY we aspire to co-create an equitable and just culture for the global majority to thrive in Vermont that centers access to safe and affirming food, commUNITY, and job opportunities. SUSU commUNITY Farm creates health equity by offering culturally relevant spaces that center earth-based and Afro Indigenous health and healing traditions as well as reclaiming and centering the

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

wisdom, stories, and legacies of our ancestors. How we show up: •B ox of Resilience: a free CSA box centering Afro Indigenous veggies, because we believe food is a birthright and not a commodity. •H ealing Legacies: Programs that connect people of the diaspora back to their lineages and ancestral legacies. •Y outh to Liberation Pipeline: Mentorship, community, and land-based healing for youth in Vermont to heal from the trauma of colonization. •T rauma Conscious School of Liberation: Classes, workshops, and programs that engage our commUNITY in embodied liberation. Learn more at susucommunityfarm.org.


“If you give a hungry man food he will eat it, but if you give him land he will grow his own food.” — FA N N I E LO U H A M E R

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ABOVE: Jabari fills the Boxes of Resilience. THIS ROW: CSA participants sharing their Boxes of Resilience. BELOW LEFT: SUSU kids in their SUSU farm tees. BELOW RIGHT: Amber tends the onion patch.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


Dreaming Black Gold

Liberation is the only option BY A M B E R A R N O LD

I

t’s hot and I’m tired, but baby I’m a dreamer. My hands are tired, my heart hurts, my eyes grow wide with tears as I realize they are too small to catch the pieces falling from the aftermath of state-sanctioned pandemics, epidemics, genocide, and violence. Killing me softly while the earth gently weeps … but those weeps turned to weapons of protection, and the white man still angers quickly. We sing omi osun to remind us that before the western doctor came it was the river who healed us, it was the ocean who caught our babies, our children, our mothers, our fathers, our ancestors as they jumped ship. It was the earth that caught our ancestors dreaming beyond ten generations, when the babies would come back home. Well, guess what, we are those babies. The Black gold the earth has been churning and nourishing. We are Black gold. We are the babies our ancestors dreamed of, planted seeds for, and gave magic to. We are Black gold. We are the space between white supremacy and neoliberalism where liberation thrives. We are the ones who came as dreamers and visionaries. We saw beyond the writing on the wall, we saw the àṣẹ of the earth that our ancestors left for us. We took nothing and we turned it into liberation, daydreams, blue skies, and sunny days. We turned it into àṣẹ. So we say iba to our ancestors, to the divinities, to the orisa, to all the ones who came before us and who guide us now. It is because of you that we are. Amber Arnold is the collaborative director of SUSU commUNITY Farm.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Dreaming Black Gold

A legacy of farmers BY N AO M I M O O DY in simple terms

passed down through his bloodline

a legacy is something

a lineage

handed down

a legacy

from an ancestor

a gift to me

like the gift of my hair

like the cotton of my hair

dandelion fluff or a field of cotton

that farm was never ours

gently playing in the breeze

his

that at one time eased

theirs

or lessened the oppressive heat of a hot

there’s nothing for me to inherit

Mississippi summer afternoon

but i still receive what is offered with pride

that had my grandfather bent over

i know how to reach for plants with the kindness

wiping the sweat from his dark brow

of kinship

his hands were never in my hair

to love the land like an elder

but spent a lifetime in the cotton

to give thanks when i receive the abundance of

my own hands now caress

the blessing of a good harvest

the humble gift from the Deep South

to hold the evidence of an aftermath in the palm of

just the sight alone of cotton can cause pain to

my hands but keep the memory of before close to

flash in the eyes of my kin

my heart

but the softness reaches out to me and my need

there is no land

to connect across lifetimes

handed down to me

and remember what came

but still i come from a long line of legacy farmers

long before

stolen from their homelands and forced to toil in the soil

long before it landed here,

that drank up every drop

this plant had a legacy

of their blood, their sweat, their tears

and so i keep them close

and holds it

soft bolls on my altar to my ancestors

lifetimes of pain living in the land

far apart

but despite it

from my grandfather’s picture,

i can reach back before it for the wisdom, the

who in the afterlife i imagine might reach for my

knowledge, the joy that comes from being

hair but would rather not ever feel cotton between

connected to the earth,

his fingers again

the wholeness that was left for me

a legacy of pain beneath the soft flowers, as hard

i can because it’s my inheritance

as the stems they hang from

my birthright

their own strange fruit

my legacy

even so i remember his other gifts land tender farmer

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Naomi Moody is the collaborative director of SUSU commUNITY Farm. She holds a cotton boll in the photo at left.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


TOP: Some of the SUSU Farmily members. Back row, from left: Jarmal, Hana, Jabari, and Nate. Front row: Lil J, Amber, and Naomi. MIDDLE ROW: Left, Jarmal and Naomi sit by an altar at the Love Us Alive grief vigil. Right, Layla by the altar for Black and Indigenous lives lost to violence. INSET LEFT: A photo of commUNITY member AJ, who recently lost his life to the violence of white supremacy and racism in Brattleboro, on the altar. RIGHT: Amber shares a sound bath with the Grow Teams fellows.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Land Based BY R E B E CC A J O N E S

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ast year my cat died, ending a long line of pets. I decided to take a break from pet ownership for a while and see what might unfold around me, to melt the boundaries a little more between my lawn and the woods, between my range and the ranges of wild creatures. In February two foxes settled into an abandoned groundhog hole just beyond the fence. After a coyote found them the pair disappeared, only to show up in a new den closer to my house. Soon enough six kits appeared, playing obediently around the den. With warm spring mornings they ventured out, bouncing around at the bottom of the hill in their new orange suits. The parent sat among them, eyes half closed in the sun. I tried not to get too excited, avoided calling them “my foxes,” and stayed clear of their den so they would not get used to me. I alerted my neighbors so they could keep a closer eye on their chickens. Sometimes a parent would try to distract me when I walked past toward the wood. They might sit, or pace, or trot in a direction away from the den. Sometimes they would bark. I wondered what it felt like for them; I wondered how much they knew that the odds were against all or even any of their offspring surviving. In the evenings I would hear them barking the way they barked at me sometimes,

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and I knew they were working hard to protect their pups. The worst was very late at night, the bark sounding like a human scream, because that was when predators were out. A bobcat found the den and began making off with the kits, one by one. I felt heartbroken, especially when I heard those cries at night. I did wonder at my responsibility in this equation, how much I was “allowed” to feel. I knew not to be angry at the bobcat. In fact, I felt lucky that the world was going about its business of living and dying without me getting in the way. I was grateful to be privy to this cycle, and even for the roller coaster of emotions around these beautiful creatures. I wasn’t sure if there were any pups left and then one morning I saw one, now significantly bigger, sizing up an outbuilding as if they were considering moving in. It chose to dive underneath — yet another groundhog hole — and I felt sheepishly protective all over again. A week later I discovered the young fox basking in the sun of my front porch, unaware of my presence as I tiptoed past the screen door. I stood and watched this wild creature and I considered the overlap of our worlds. I had always been taught that the way to honor our wild kin was to discourage them from becoming too comfortable with us, with the ironic

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

awareness that such familiarity could lead them to harm. I now considered that this attitude of separation was rooted in white supremacy culture. I embrace the teachings of Robin Wall Kimmerer that remind us that we can have a positive impact on the world around us. While I don’t have the right answer about how this might look, I do know the feeling I had looking at that fox; how beautiful it was, how honored I felt that it would grace my front steps with its presence, opening its little world of wildness into mine. We are not separate from the natural world, are responsible for our part as part of a bigger and beautiful world. There is no us versus nature; we are nature. I want to do my part. I will turn my lawn into meadow one small parcel at a time (because I don’t have enough cardboard or stamina to do it all at once). I spread compost over my lawn not to make the grass greener but to start enriching the soil for carbon. My gardens are filled with milkweed and goldenrod, and I am struck by how beautiful they look. And I revel in the idea that fox and bobcat, and even bear, are among us. Rebecca Jones is a member of 350Brattleboro. She works in Brattleboro and lives in Whately, Mass.


Mother Heart P H OTOS & WO R DS BY K AT E A DA M S My mother heart aches. I ache for our Mother Earth See and sense her aching for all her beloved beings impacted by the cancer of invaders,. takers,. rapers. My mother heart aches. I ache for my daughter Whose body is ravished by cells turned destructive threatening her life Mother Earth heart aches. I go forth into her presence for comfort,. grounded solace to catch, share glimpses of her beauty and resilience. My mother heart aches yet hopes for healing and that my caring and sharing eases the pain and nurtures hope.

Kate Adams shares the beauty of creation and her horses as teachers and healers at Ascutney Mtn Horse Farm in Ascutney.

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apologize BY A R I E L B U RG E S S to mend again intricate web to heal our bonds of catastrophic ordeal and respond connect us to ourselves each other I offer ecology the silk strings that tie us together through infinite cosmology ancestral time wing and scale through expanding vacuums and condensing black holes I offer an apology

to our reciprocity with all biology that comes upon the waves

to you, my family the green ones of botany those without chlorophyl too swimming dancing soaring hopping zoology and those of mycology that hold us sustain us tie us to mineral cloud tear mighty ocean tsunamis that fall with lightning

the billowing ever flowing life of anemology heavily carrying the beauty of hydrology across the desert to be a mountain to dream to be founded in philosophy of equality and serene valleys downstream let the pyrology burn it down for in her wisdom she never leaves bare ground embracing

to you, our ethnology of broken promise ideology

policy of viscosity between our death and birth ravine

that has us forget how to be sisters only harbingers of isolation poor listeners of winters wasteful jester drifters to leave more death in our mythology than life upon this glorious geology bequeath nothing that stirs

let it be seen that this apology ring from stone to sea echoing off vines of tree and veins of manatee through downpours and mushroom spores not an oddity or anomaly but only the beginning of

I want to be better remember forgotten ways

a way to listen and give thanks for all that has been given

and bring gentle loving quality

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


—holding— BY A R I E L B U RG E S S holding space, holding time, holding ourselves, holding each other, holding process This project unfolded over three moon cycles of early 2021. In the woods stand a circle of eight trees who hosted this project. Through time, space, and process this project aims to heal broken relationships, namely the one between humans and the rest of life, starting with the artist. These images and this poem are a part of the project. Ariel K. McK. Burgess is an artist, environmentalist, and educator. She is based in Winooski, where she works for the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife and Champlain College, and leads workshops in climate grief and mourning.

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‘I Can Be Here’ I N T ERV I E W W I T H CO R I R E A DY & K E N YA L A Z U LI BY M A R I SA D. K E L L E R

Last year, against the backdrop of a pandemic and nationwide protests against the unjust murders of Black people, three artist friends started an interstate and international collaboration. Cori Ready is a self-described “hospitality activist” and event director in Oslo, Norway; Kyana Gordon is a writer and researcher in Brooklyn, New York; and Kenya Lazuli is a community organizer and runs artists’ residencies at her home in Corinth, Vermont.

or relaxing or refreshing. So yeah, for me, it’s just like, things are a certain way, but what if they weren’t? Kenya Lazuli: What’s being offered is very flat, and it’s very white. And it’s not for us. It’s not for BIPOC, women, femmes, it’s not for queer or trans people...

MDK: Can you talk a little more about how you encourage that comfort? KL: Whenever a person of color is coming to be my guest in any capacity, whether it’s for the residency or just coming to hang out, I make sure that I’m the person that picks them up at the airport or the bus station or wherever, so that the first person they see here is me. And I think that piece, even though I’m a lightskinned person, that piece of encountering a person of color immediately once you get to a place is just like, Okay, they’re here, I can be here. And I make sure to tell them, “This place is a safe place for you to go by yourself; this place, I would go with a friend. You are my guests, you are welcome here, you’re welcome on this land, you’re welcome on that land over there.” And I think that helps a lot. But I also check in with them repeatedly throughout the entire session and keep an eye on how they’re doing, you know, all the things white supremacy culture doesn’t do, like check in with us, like see how we do, ask us questions, invite us to places that we might feel more comfortable. I will say that it’s different every single time, because people are different, and their needs are different. And people are coming from really different places.

Things are a certain way,

They named their collaboration Radical Imagination. In the last year, they’ve distributed healing grants to people of color around the country, hosted a BIPOC-only wilderness skills workshop on the land where Kenya lives in Corinth, and partnered with Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust and the Vermont Releaf Collective on the Every Town project, whose goal is to secure land for BIPOC in every town in Vermont.

but what if they weren’t?

Read on for Kenya’s and Cori’s thoughts about imagining a world beyond the status quo, helping BIPOC feel safe in the woods, and the importance of fun. You can also learn more about Radical Imagination and support the group’s work at radicalimaginationprojects.com. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Marisa D. Keller: What does “radical imagination” mean to you? Cori Ready: For me, it’s a lot about the idea that the status quo isn’t necessary. A lot of the things that we accept as humans, within our society, are just constructs we can ditch at will. I think that we have the ability to create greater potential amongst ourselves, for having fun and being festive and experiencing our bodies and our souls in the world in a way that’s more rewarding

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CR: I came to Kenya’s arts residency, and I was really blown away by the potential in the space, because it’s a really wild area. The land there is really inspiring, beautiful, and very abundant. And it gives you the sense of growth, for your own identity. KL: Some of the feedback that we received from the residency historically was that, for specifically BIPOC, they have not felt this comfortable in an outdoor setting before in their lives; there was never a space like this where they knew that it was okay to be here and no one was going to bother them. We’ve had people just wander off into the woods who’ve never done that before, and then just come back and be like, “Oh my god, I can be in the woods.” That moment is exactly what we’re after. It’s like, now that they’ve experienced that, they can imagine themselves doing all sorts of other things and occupying all sorts of other spaces that are not historically welcoming.

MDK: How have you seen people change when they do get access to land in a way that feels safe? KL: There’s a woman who came who — half of her family lives in Mexico and half lives in Texas. And so she crosses the border a lot, and it’s very stressful. And being outside

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


Creating Safe Spaces for BIPOC in Vermont

Participants in Radical Imagination’s BIPOC wilderness-skills workshop connect with the Earth.

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there were a lot of my friends and acquaintances who were white people who had a lot of access to sports like climbing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking. And I had never had any of that; I didn’t have a lot of access or confidence or training. I didn’t have money to take classes or buy gear, and I didn’t know anyone who had that kind of stuff around. So it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I was like, I can go hiking too. I can go hiking with my black and Asian friends. And we can go to fancy sports stores and buy hiking boots and go in the wilderness. Like, nature is not just a scarce resource to protect, but it’s also something for me, too. KL: I grew up in the house a quarter mile away from where I’m sitting, where my parents still live. I moved back here seven years ago to have my baby at home. My brother and I both spent a lot of time outside during our childhoods, even in the winter. My parents took us camping and everything. And I took it for granted, my access to this connection with nature. Coming back here, and even throughout not living here, we always went hiking, backpacking, or boating, rafting. All these ways to be with nature. It’s fun and amazing to get out there, but it’s also just like, is it respectful? Does the earth have a say in what’s going on right now? And usually, the answer’s no. [Now] I don’t do a lot of sporting around in the woods. I’m more like, gathering something or walking around on the land with my kid or going swimming in the pond. This land is like our housemate; it’s like another community member that we interact with regularly.

Cori Ready

in nature was very stressful for her. She came here, and she was one of the people who was just like, “How do you live here? It’s so white.” Like, she’s never been in a place this white. She was doing this work [where] she would take natural things and spell out words in Spanish and take pictures of them in specific places, resonant messages about the intensity of border crossing and her experience. She was down by the stream and she was making these letters and floating them down the stream and she was immersed in her work and then had this moment of, I’m in the woods by myself. And she started to panic. And then she was like, oh, but I’m at Kenya’s, and then just went back to her project. She told me this story, and I was like, “Oh my god; that’s what we’re doing. It’s working!” She now knows there are safe natural spaces for her. MDK: What is your relationship to the land? CR: I grew up on a lot of land outside of Seattle. I had a relationship with land that was about conservation. So, protecting the natural world and appreciating the natural world. But I wasn’t necessarily empowered in the way that I think that white people are to be in the world. I found when I was older, like university age,

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MDK: What are the challenges that are frustrating you the most right now? KL: White supremacy. Patriarchy. COVID. It’s so hard to do this work; not being able to share space with people is really hard. Especially when our work is so community-oriented and gathering-oriented. CR: Resource hoarding. We’ve encountered that a lot from specifically white people who say, “What can I do to help you?” We say, “We need land or money.” They say, “But do you want help with…? We could do a newsletter?” And we’re like, “No. We asked for land or money.” We can do our own newsletter, you know? I also think something that’s frustrating for me is the idea of BIPOC people being asked to sacrifice luxury. I think there’s something really unfair about BIPOC people not being able to have the best of everything. Black people shouldn’t have to be farmers to interact with the land. If they want to have a picnic and just sit around and have a dance party, like me, they should be able to do that. But that kind of thing is usually reserved for rich white people who have ownership of land in their families. I’m not here for the sort of Black capitalism that Jay-Z is into, like, okay, we’ll just be also very rich and wasteful. I’m interested in freedom.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


KL: I think early on Kyana was like, if you ask someone, like a white person, to imagine a group of Black people on the land, what do they picture? And the answer was like, toiling and being enslaved. We want the opposite. We want everyone to be able to imagine and see with their own eyes some lounging Black people doing nothing that they don’t want to do and, like, eating grapes. MDK: How do you keep yourselves grounded and healthy in this work? Especially for really long-term projects? CR: We’re still learning. We all three have a really strong relationship with care and building a team of carers around you. Not even just supportive friends and family, but practitioners of acupuncture or breathwork or massage. And again, that’s bougie stuff, but it shouldn’t be. We all have embodiment that we need to take care of in this crazy world. Having providers do that for us is really important. And that’s one of the reasons we did those healing grants, because our communities have suffered under a lot of mental stress, which causes physical stress. KL: I actually made myself sick this past year. Figuring out how to pace yourself in this work is nearly impossible. But having this smart three-person community to hold me accountable to taking care of myself is incredibly helpful. When something’s going on, for one of us, the other two of us are just like, “Well, are you taking care of yourself?” We’re in real community with one another, in real conversation with one another. Taking care of ourselves is the work, you know? Communicating with each other is the work. For the Every Town project, we’ve created this BIPOC committee, but what came up for us at our first meeting was that there’s so much interpersonal stuff. We all know each other, and we’re all being asked to do more than our fair share right now. And so they come to this committee meeting, and they’re like, “Oh, I can’t share space with that person.” And it’s like, okay, well, we need to start there, because you have to, because we’re doing this work for all of us. We all need to know how to communicate and be in spaces together and also create space for other people to come in. That’s really different from any other space I’ve occupied, like a white-led space specifically, where all of that would just be swept under the rug and you could just deal with it or leave — but that’s not what we’re building. MDK: What else would you like people to know about your work? CR: In terms of climate change, it’s interesting that, you know, the global north and rich people

Kenya Lazuli

are impacting the climate so disproportionately to equatorial populations, and if the global majority has more say in the stewardship of land, then that can only be a good thing. Because we tend to reject extractive economies — not least of all because we don’t benefit. So that’s baked into our proposition as well, even though it’s not something we’re really talking about. Climate justice is racial justice. KL: I feel like we’re about all the things. If you ask us to distill it down… We want everyone to have a home; we want legit equity. Not “Oh, I did an antiracist training. Now I’m not racist anymore” — that does nothing. We want the playing field to be level. And we’re a long way from that. And we have to do it ourselves, so we’re doing that. CR: We might as well have fun when we’re doing it, too. KL: We’re all a little bit obsessed with fun. Marisa D. Keller is a writer, editor, climate activist, and lifelong Vermonter. She currently lives in Montpelier.

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Home for the

Pollinators WO R DS & A RT BY A LI C E B A R B E R A

T

he day I arrived in Vermont it started to rain and didn’t stop for three weeks. I thought I had made a huge mistake. But fifteen years later, I’m still here. Vermont’s breathtaking vistas and dynamically changing seasons have tunneled their way to my core. Unfortunately, boatloads of rain are scarce as droughts have become more of the new normal and less fluky. I can’t make it rain, but I can transform my garden into a wildlife habitat, a refuge and safe haven where some of our pollinator friends can live and thrive. Springtime spins its magic as daylight lingers longer and small miracles emerge from the earth. Hummingbirds dart across my garden, sucking nectar from my azaleas, petunias, and daylilies. Bees and butterflies find lavender’s sweet scent and abundance of nectar irresistible. And tasty herbs like parsley, thyme, oregano, and mint will perk up the antennae of any hungry caterpillar. Have you ever heard of a moonlight garden? As twilight settles on my small sanctuary, night-blooming flowers attract pollinators that forage from dusk ’til dawn. Evening primrose and white lilacs will rival any stars in the night sky for their beauty and intoxicating aroma. A neighborhood bat may drop by, feasting on some tasty insects that are better left inside the bat than chewing on my flowers. Moths are also drawn to these garden beauties, or, as the ad for Motel 6 goes, I can just “leave a light on” for them. I care for these fragile creatures that fly by day and well into the night. They pollinate our gardens as well as our crops. We rely on each other for well-being and sustenance. Like a single stone dropped in a pond, one ripple turns into many. One life creates a multitude. Alice Barbera lives in South Burlington and works for Lumunos, Inc., writing numerous essays for their e-news publication. She is an avid gardener, and when she's not planting, pruning, weeding, or seeding, she creates graphite drawings that resemble shapes found in our natural world.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


Minding Their B’s How the Isham Family Farm puts environmental stewardship first BY E VA M O RG A N

E

very day on the Isham Family Farm, Mike Isham and Helen Weston ask themselves a central question: “How does our work today affect the four B’s?” Birds, bees, butterflies, and bugs are a crucial part of life on their Williston farm. Throughout the years, Mike and Helen have altered and changed their farming practices to prioritize the four B’s and have integrated a respect for the environment into their land stewardship. Mike Isham is the fifth generation to steward the farm. After his parents retired from dairy farming fifteen years ago, Mike took over the land, glad to get out of the corporate world and back to his roots and where he grew up. Dairy farming on the Isham Farm retired with Mike’s parents, and now Mike and Helen focus on cultivating a diversity of crops. They produce blueberries, raspberries, pumpkins, corn, Christmas trees, and maple syrup, not to mention the countless events they host at the community barn. Not long after Mike took over the farm, he and Helen started educating themselves on the best practices for the four B’s. They began the cultivation of a diverse and vibrant forest soon after, and over the years have implemented other environmentally minded methods into their everyday farming. One practice is delayed meadow mowing, where they mow just once per year. The mowing occurs only after the nesting season of grassland birds, which allows their chicks to remain safely in the nests until they fledge, or begin to fly. Mike and Helen implemented this practice about four years ago and have already seen astonishing results. “Since we’ve started doing that, we’ve seen four different species of grassland birds that have come back to our meadows,” Helen said of the delayed meadow mowing, “So that was really exciting.” They’ve also found creative alternatives to pesticides despite the recent outbreak of Lymantria dispar moths (previously known as “gypsy moths,” but the Entomological Society of America is in the process

of choosing a new name that is not an ethnic slur). Lymantria dispar caterpillars have been causing a lot of devastation across Vermont as they eat the leaves of trees and plants, sometimes stripping them bare. Instead of spraying their blueberry bushes, Mike and Helen have trained their fifty chickens to eat these caterpillars right off the plants. They began by

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showing the chickens the caterpillars and feeding the caterpillars to them. “As soon as they take that first bite, boom, they’re off running.” Helen says. “Now they jump up into the blueberries to get [the caterpillars].” Farming Christmas trees, another key aspect of the Isham Family Farm, has also changed. Mike and Helen don’t spray the trees to kill unwanted plants or bugs; they let grass and other plants grow freely underneath the trees to provide ample habitat for the four B’s. “It takes our trees maybe another year to grow to the height,” Helen says, “And they’re not that cookie-cutter Christmas tree. … But we like to think that we’re changing the paradigm of thought.” Cookie-cutter Christmas trees aren’t what’s best for the four B’s, and the same is true of manicured meadows and lawns. “[People] feel like the beauty is in the cleancut meadow, same with lawns. [People] really love a nice mowed lawn, but they really are like a — what do

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you call them — ecodesert,” Helen says. Manicured lawns and meadows can lead to habitat loss for a lot of different species. In contrast, delayed meadow mowing allows the land to be “noisy,” Helen says. “There’s movement in it and things are happening.” A beautiful meadow can be one that is teeming with life; we just have to change our perception of it. Spreading these ideas and increasing public awareness through education is also a large part of the farm. Helen, whose parents instilled a respect for and love of nature in her at a young age, has started an outdoor classroom where she exposes kids to the complexities of the natural world. This outdoor classroom is a part of a new project forming on the Isham Farm — a nonprofit organization called First: Earth. The outdoor classroom is just one of the three aspects of environmental education and community building created under the First: Earth umbrella, the other two being a performing arts series and a forum for other groups to hold events. The organization is a fusion of Helen’s three passions — performing arts, the environment, and bringing community together — that she dreamed up during a solo hike of the Long Trail in 2020. “One of the big reasons I created this project was I definitely feel like I do have that new-age word of ecoanxiety,” Helen says. “But on the flip side of it, when I’m really studying the environment, I just

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


have these moments of just pure joy, because it’s so beautiful when you really delve into it.” Helen says that combining art and the environment through First: Earth just felt, well, natural: “People who create art do a lot of it through being with nature. The natural environment is a huge reason why we create art, and I think they fit together perfectly.” In addition to the passion that both art and nature can evoke, the performing arts can grab an audience’s attention and expose them to knowledge in a fun and innovative way, especially for kids. This summer, First: Earth events revolve around a production of A Year with Frog and Toad, a musical about friendship and adventure. Every performance is preceded by a talk about the environment. The audience gets to engage with various environmental topics and then watch a musical performance, deepening their understanding of the natural world while having fun and building community. Knowledge about the beauty and awe of nature and why we need to focus on our environment is something that the Isham family hopes people who visit their farm walk away with. They also hope that people walk away with an increased respect for how much hard work it takes to run a successful farm. “The less and less people who work the land, the less empathy and compassion we have for the people who do work the land. And therefore the practices that are needed for stewardship on the land are not recognized,” Helen says. Through continually speaking out and meeting people where they are, Helen and Mike are working to increase public awareness about the importance of ethical land stewardship. Across Vermont, farmers are struggling with the increasing challenges of invasive species and hotter, dryer weather. Although Lymantria dispar outbreaks usually last just a year, for example, some people worry that the climate crisis could increase their ability to stick around. Whatever happens, though, Helen and Mike will continue to put the birds, bees, butterflies, and bugs first on the Isham Family Farm and to educate and engage future generations about the importance of the work they (and their chickens) are doing. Eva Morgan is a senior at Middlebury College and has deepened her appreciation and love of the natural world through her time spent in Vermont. Learn more about the Isham Family Farm at ishamfamilyfarm.com.

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The Woods

Behind Our House A RT & WO R DS BY M A RC Y K A S S

O

ur suburban neighborhood is nearly surrounded by almost 300 acres of woods, which blend into Catamount Outdoor Family Center. (Despite my town of Williston’s deserved big-box-store reputation, there’s a lot of open land. In zoned agricultural/rural areas, Williston requires new developments to set aside 75 percent of the parcel to be open land, which is the highest percentage in the state of Vermont.) My husband and I have walked a loop in our woods at least once a week, often three or four times a week, for twenty-six years, which adds up to around 15,000 walks. Watching the seasons change, alert to fallen trees after a storm, mushrooms, flowers, berries, fiddleheads, stinging nettles (so itchy instantly!), creek bed erosion, ice formations on the creek in winter — every time we walk there’s something new to notice. Animals are mostly champions at hiding from us. A month ago I surprised a grouse from its ground roost, and it made a big commotion to get the heck out and fly away right in front of me. We buried our dog in our woods. We buried our miscarried embryo in there. When I think of death, of my own mortality, I think of our woods. For over twenty-six years we’ve seen trees grow and trees die, streams change course, mushrooms pop up in different places, fallen trees get carpeted by moss. Change is fascinating, inevitable, and we are not exempt. Death can feel like a tragedy, like last week when an old friend lost his life when he fell into the water from his wooden boat. But with the woods as my teacher / my context / my world, death feels integrated into the scheme of things, and this is a comfort to me.

Marcy Kass is a member of 350Burlington and Sustainable Williston.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Food for the FEAST Montpelier grows vegetables for senior meals program BY SA R A H LI P TO N

O

n the periphery of Montpelier, on a hidden plot of land tucked between two major roads, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, kale, and other veggies reach toward the sun. A stone’s throw away, the Winooski River flows by, providing an easy source of water. This is FEAST Farm, a project spearheaded by the City of Montpelier Parks Department. Now in its second season, the farm grows produce for the city’s FEAST Senior Meals Program. Over the course of 2020, the FEAST Farm produced about a thousand

“It has such a good vibe. It’s community made, community oriented, and that makes it always feel good when you’re here.” —Izzy, U23 High School graduate, Montpelier Youth Conservation Corps member

pounds of food for FEAST’s meals-on-wheels service and twice-weekly in-person meals. This season, the farm has tripled production, enabling it to send produce to Montpelier’s food pantry as well. The vegetables are grown using mostly organic methods, and the goal is for the farm to eventually use all notill, regenerative-agriculture practices. The farm is run by parks department staff with help from community volunteers and from the Montpelier Youth Conservation Corps (MYCC), high school students who are paid to work the farm as well as on other parks projects. (Some of the students were also involved in the farm through school programming during the school year.) MYCC is a brand-new program developed this year with grant funding from organizations including

“It’s so hidden. It’s like a secret cool farm with all this produce that can be harvested.” —Ben, 9th grader at Montpelier High School, Montpelier Youth Conservation Corps member

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


“It’s innovative. I think it’s a huge asset to FEAST senior meals program because it fills our gap of procurement needs with food grown two miles away.” —Andrew Gribbin, aging in place coordinator, Montpelier Senior Activity Center

“FEAST Farm is an incredible example of what you can do with really few resources and a lot of heart and community energy.” —Benjamin Gress, farm and forest outreach coordinator, Montpelier Parks Department

Vermont Afterschool, the Lake Champlain Basin Program, and the Vermont Community Foundation. The farm itself is supported by additional funding from Ben & Jerry’s, National Life Group, and the Maine-based nonprofit SeedMoney. The FEAST meals program serves around 16,000 meals per year to older adults in Montpelier, Berlin, and surrounding

communities. The program is run by the Montpelier Senior Activity Center in coordination with the Central Vermont Council on Aging, which guides the nutrition and wellness aspects of the program. FEAST meals are produced by Justin Turcotte through his company, Good Taste Catering, with produce also donated by the gleaners from the Community Harvest of Central Vermont, monthly donations from the Vermont Foodbank, and fresh garden produce from community members. When I first stepped into the role of FEAST program manager in August 2020, I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the city had created a farm to support the senior nutrition program. Working in partnership across city departments on this project has been extremely rewarding, and I hope to see this

equitable, sustainable project replicated across Vermont. Sarah Lipton is manager of the FEAST Senior Meals Program. If you would like to learn more about the FEAST Farm and the FEAST Senior Meals Program, or find out how to get involved, contact her at slipton@montpelier-vt.org or 802-262-6288. You can also learn more at montpelier-vt.org/309/FEAST-Meals-Program. Quotes gathered by Leila Faulstich-Hon and Marisa D. Keller.

“I get to make an impact on my own community: it’s not just trickle-down, it’s cause and effect right in front of your own eyes.” —Jasper, 10th grader at Montpelier High School, Montpelier Youth Conservation Corps member

“I feel like every time I pick something up in the store, I’m just mortified at how far it traveled. [FEAST Farm] is so close. I think it’s amazing that people who are often food insecure are getting the best food, because that’s not always the case. . . . One of the biggest beauties of the program is that the marginalized populations are getting the best food, and the most local food, which is a beautiful thing. —cara barbero, crew leader, Montpelier Parks Department

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Ogre in the Forest BY LU C Y N O R M A N

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t least twice a week I am dressed head to toe in tick-proof clothing. I’m out in my twelve wooded acres with clippers, chain saw, and spray bottle of DIY weed killer. I work a couple of hours clipping and sawing down invasive Japanese shrub honeysuckle, spraying the now-sprouting stumps of those I’ve previously cut, and launching brush into fifteen-foot piles. These I will burn when there’s snow on the ground. Even though I work in shade, I am hot. I yank out small bushes — their roots are shallow — but for the huge aged bushes I must kneel in the undergrowth, reach under tangled branches, and cut at ground level. Sweat soaks my clothing and brines my eyes. When the chain saw battery runs out of juice I return to the house — or when I’m just too sweaty and ragged out to continue. In two hours I have cut down maybe five huge plants that cover maybe four or five square feet each. And the cut stumps sprout again immediately. It’s a hydra, the manyheaded serpent of Greek mythology: cut one head off and two more grow. The land behind my little house was once a slate quarry, I think, although likely not very productive. It lies along Vermont’s “slate ridge” on the southwest side of the state, close on the New York border. The property now is covered with spindly woods trying to recreate the forest it might once have been. Japanese shrub honeysuckle looks exactly like what we know as the honeysuckle vine. But though the Japanese version mimics the pink and white flowers, they emit no fragrance, nor does it climb. This plant is the first in the spring to put out leaves. It gets the jump on everything else, grabbing sunlight, water, and nutrients. It begins in open areas and along forest edges. Once it starts, little else can compete. Tiny trees begin from seeds of those nearby but cannot get sufficient nourishment to thrive. When the spindly trees in my forest reach maturity and die, their descendants, if there are any, will have little chance to replace them. Ultimately my twelve forested acres will become a sea of greedy shrub honeysuckle. Japanese honeysuckle bushes have created more dimensions than the three with which we are familiar. In addition to horizontal, vertical, and deep, these bushes have invented “diagonal,” “zig,” “zag,” “crook,” “reach,” “stretch,” and more without names. Physicists posit a possible twenty-six dimensions; shrub honeysuckle confirms the thesis. Although the angled branches create good places for nesting birds, it’s a trap; open at ground level, this configuration allows predators easy access to eggs and baby birds.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


Although it produces red berries in autumn, the fruit provides little real nourishment for wildlife. And so I labor. I like to think, as I clear bush by bush, and spray stump after stump, that eventually my twelve acres will be clear, the fat, shallow roots will die, and tiny tree seedlings will reclaim their natural hold on this little piece of land. But will they? Drive along Vermont’s rural roads and you will see the shrub honeysuckle — lining the sunlit forest edge, encroaching inwards. Have you noticed that you can no longer see into the woods? These bushes blur forest edges, purloining nourishment, beginning their inevitable march back through the forest. The invasive will take over. Already that has happened in one section of my forest. I’m nearing 80 years. How long can I cross swords with this forest ogre? Can I finish? And when I do, how long before they creep back? When I can no longer, it will once again invade, arrogating resources — taking over. In the end, I wonder why I bother. As humans inhabit the globe and travel from continent to continent, it seems to me they will inevitably introduce what we now call invasives. I cannot know them all or clear them all. Yes, starlings were brought to the new world when a literary romantic wanted our continent to host all the birds in Shakespeare. They, too, do damage, carry disease, crowd out others, steal nourishment. Should we kill the starlings? Perhaps, in the end, the natural world will find a new balance as invasive plants and animals pervade new spaces and struggle to live together. No place will be the same as it was. But isn’t that true of the world we know at this very moment in time? Yes, we humans make our mark upon the world. We are animate, after all. But in the end we may have to live with the changes we have wrought. For me, now, I guess, with the Japanese shrub honeysuckle, I will continue to sweat and make my mark on this particular invasive. It is what I can do. Lucy Norman is a retired journalist, speech writer, and flack. She lives in West Pawlet on twelve acres being encroached on by several invasive flora. When she’s not reading or enjoying Vermont, she continues to do battle with shrub honeysuckle.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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The Path of a Portal Note: This piece was submitted by a group of Burlington-based artists. They have chosen to remain anonymous to give power to the story and the art rather than the artists.

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n the woods, there is a crossroads, a place where a smaller trail branches from the main one taking a different direction, and then another, even smaller, leads in another direction. The winding paths create a place in the woods, a place where you may naturally want to linger a moment and slow your pace. You can continue along the well-worn trail in the direction you were walking or perhaps turn aside, pause. Here is a place where you make a choice. Which way to go? To stop, look a little more closely, to wonder what is there.

It was here, at this place, we stopped. In the early morning, before the sun had fully risen. We were a group of friends wanting to make something and we were looking for the right place to make it. Here, the crossroads said, here. So here we did our work. We rolled logs from the woods for seating — two people could easily sit six feet apart — to rest, to look around, to talk, to reflect. Two locust trees seemed to watch over this place, tall sentinels to this place in the woods. Here, between those trees, where the paths branched, we made an arch, a place to walk through if you chose the divergent path. With grapevines, driftwood, birch bark, and hemp twined together, we wove a portal. With quiet chat, pausing now and then to see what was emerging, we wove in and through each other's work, twining together our hope and love for all that life is. With respect for place, for ourselves, each other, and our fellow beings, the portal took shape and came alive. It was beautiful. We wanted our conversation to branch like the paths and include other voices. This was our intention, our desire. Knowing that others would be called to this place, we built a way to continue this conversation with those who would choose to step off the main path and through the portal. We made a hand-carved box and filled it with handmade paper cut into soft shapes and tied with bits of twine. On the box, we carved a question that we had been asking each other. A question that helped us connect, and remember what we knew in the midst of all that was unknown — about the pandemic, and about the changes in our lives: "What's getting you through?" Later, after we had completed our work and gone home, the conversation did continue there in the woods. Many people walk that main path, and, that week, some slowed their walk to look at something unexpected in the woods along their regular route. Some stopped, those whose curiosity caught their time and attention; they stepped through the portal. These ones, the curious ones, the seekers, might have noticed the beautiful box with its question written on the cover and some certainly reached out to feel the smoothness of the letters under their palms and even looked more closely and found the fragments of soft paper inside. Some of these curious ones — or maybe simply ones in need of connection — opened the box. Letting the cover become their table, they stopped for a moment to ponder the question: what was getting them through? They wrote a response — or the feelings that arose in response to the place or to the question — on soft paper and quietly tied it among the vines, adorning the portal with their own hope and love and longing. It became a place to reflect and connect in a time of distance and dissociation. A place of quiet conversation. This portal gave hope to us and to others, maybe easing our fear for a time and perhaps lending strength to continue walking through the times to come. For one week, this conversation happened there in the woods.

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GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


Remember now, this was the spring of 2020; we were in lockdown; a pandemic had spread over the land and into our lives. Life slowed down and we naturally went outside, where we felt safer. We were drawn to the lake, the woods, and the pathways in between. The streets became our living rooms, neighborhoods became our places to connect — at a distance — with others. For some of us, these places hold magic. For some of us, they inspire us. For some of us, they help us heal. We feel these are places of power. Important places. Places both natural and created, and perhaps more alluring, where they dance together. In creating the portal in the woods, we wanted to nurture this dance, spark connection. This is the kind of power that blossoms when you aren’t expecting anything, something that arises from a strong place inside and grows when it encounters similar power in others. This is the power of art. A passerby shared that they saw someone wearing a parks department shirt taking the installation down early one morning. Our inquiries shed no light on who dismantled it or why. And like that, this portal, a point in the web of our community connection, was gone. Whether mindlessly “walked through” or intentionally taken out, it was gone. But isn’t the strength of a web its many many points of connection? When one gives way, there are still many more to keep it intact while repairs are made. Inspired by the wisdom of Spider, even through adversity and thoughtlessness, we continue to build our web of connection. And every time it gets torn down, may we know, through the strength, support, and love of community, how to build and rebuild the webs that hold us together, to keep us buoyant and in touch in the ways we can. And the weaving continues...

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Earthworm BY G R E G D E L A N T Y

(They face in opposite directions to reproduce.)

What a miner, pistoning in slow motion through the underworld of the earth, engineering vents, channels, water flow,

converting death and dearth, day in, night out. Each eyeless body digesting the soil, nursing birth.

Cut in two, they double, breathe via marly skin, a must for farm and garden: alfalfa, spuds, spinach, carrots, cabbage, barley,

wasabi, wheat, gourds, rutabaga, papaya, endive. You name it. Build them a shrine. May these lowly laborers of Gaia

multiply, flourish, never decline, stick with worm love, position 69.

“From earthworms we learn that before anything grows there has to be prepared soil. When we talk about the endless process of bringing briefs and information to government, the only thing that can keep us going is the notion that it prepares the soil. It may not change minds, but it will provide the arguments for a time when minds are changed. Unless there is that prepared soil, no new thoughts and no new ways of dealing with problems will ever arise."

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—Ursula Franklin, Globe and Mail, Canada

(Note: At the time this poem was written the author was unaware of the problem of invasive species of earthworm, which can cause extensive damage to forest ecosystems. But it is still true that they play an essential role in the agricultural systems that we humans rely on for food.) Greg Delanty’s latest collection of poems is No More Time (where this poem was originally published) and he has received many awards, including a Guggenheim for poetry. He teaches at Saint Michael’s College and he is an activist, taking part in many actions including being arrested outside the White House with other 350.org members demonstrating against the fossil fuel industry. He gave up his car seven years ago and cycles right through the Vermont year, and he converted his house to run on solar and clean energy instead of oil and gas.

GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land


GROUNDED: How Vermonters are cultivating transformative relationships with the land

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Rewild Vermont

Six thousand trees & counting BY 3 5 0V E R M O N T S TA F F

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ecent research has found that carefully planted trees could absorb as much as two-thirds of all anthropogenic carbon in the atmosphere. With this information, and a commitment to local and resilient solutions to the climate emergency, 350Vermont created the Rewild Vermont campaign, a project to plant thousands of trees across Vermont. The Rewild Vermont project strives to unite concerns for local ecosystem health, climate mitigation, and adaptation with an emphasis on food justice by planting restorative and food-producing species around the state. Through planting trees in Vermont, we can sequester carbon, build soil, limit erosion, and restore Vermont ecosystems that have been damaged by extractive farming practices. We also have an opportunity to build community orchards, feeding and connecting people across Vermont. As of June 2021, over 6,000 trees have been planted and we are now seeking out new sites for future plantings. We would love to have you join us and help sow the seeds for a vibrant, livable future. Learn more about how to get involved at 350vermont.org/rewild-vermont.

Did you see this piece? Kristian Brevik, creator of the cut-out and fold-up mini-zine at left, is a Burlington-based artist whose work explores the interactions between humans and other-than-humans. See more at kristianbrevik.com.


tree art by Jaiel Pulskamp

350Vermont organizes, educates, and supports people in Vermont to work together for climate justice — resisting fossil fuels, building momentum for alternatives, and transforming our communities toward justice and resilience.

350vermont.org