Putting Your Money to Work Locally

More Free “Local Investment” Events starting April 8!

“Market forces” got you down? Does it seem like Big Finance keeps putting resources toward things that create more environmental damage and human inequality?

Maybe it’s time you took the reins of your own financial resources and made them work for positive change where you can see it: right here in your community. Why fund Wall Street when you can direct your money toward Main Street?

Vital Communities and its partners (including The Local Crowd Monadnock) have added four more free events in our series entitled “Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”: Reclaiming Our Local Economy“:
  • Investing for Home Creation, Thursday, April 8, 5:30 pm: Your savings can help create more lower cost homes. Learn how even small amounts can bring financial, social, and environmental rewards.

  • Put Your Money to Work Locally: Investment Clubs 101, Thursday, April 15, 5:30 pm: Interested in investing locally but don’t want to do it alone? Investment clubs pool money to collectively invest in local businesses and bring a social aspect to the process – they make investment fun! Join Matt Cropp from the Vermont Solidarity Investment Club to learn the ins and outs of starting your own investment club, as well as some ideas about what to look for if you want to join an established club and increase your power to do good by investing as a group.

  • Seeding Change: The Power of Conscious Commerce (2021), viewable on demand April 22-24: a documentary on how consumers can help save the world “one purchase at a time” and “triple bottom line” businesses that consider the social, environmental and financial impacts of their companies and address some of today’s most challenging issues. This award-winning documentary empowers viewers to be part of the solution by voting with their dollars and supporting the brands and products that align with their environmentally conscious values.
    Part of the Monadnock Region Earth Day Film Festival.
  • Put Your Money to Work Locally: Community Loan Funds 101, Tuesday, April 27, 5:30 pm: Community loan funds are a home grown solution for investing in our communities, energy independence, and working lands. Join us for a deep dive into impact investing with Vermont and New Hampshire community loan funds.

Sign up here to receive lively weekly email companion pieces to these events, starting March 30!

These events and material are educational in nature and should not be construed as specific legal, accounting, or investment recommendations.

Check out resources on our new “Invest Local page!

Don’t miss these great opportunities to increase your financial IQ!

Our Vital Economy

The series is part of Vital Communities’ ongoing “Vital Economy” program—initiatives that teach people the importance of buying and investing locally and offer how-tos and incentives. One step was sponsoring the Upper Valley Indie Impact Study (2020), which found that businesses rooted in the Upper Valley keep up to 4 times more money circulating in the region’s economy than do national chain stores, and that remote online retailers suck hundreds of millions of dollars from our economy each year.

Local businesses create stable jobs, enhance community character, and support our communities with donations of time and money, and have proven to be especially critical during the pandemic. Now, after a year of COVID shutdowns, bankruptcies, deaths, and economic despair, it’s all the more important to channel our resources to the local businesses and organizations that sustain us. In fact, it’s an opportunity to relocalize our economy—catalyzing innovation and shifting capital to where we live to fuel the entrepreneurs, businesses, and projects our communities need to be more sustainable, vibrant, and resilient in the face of future disruptions and challenges.

Flavors of the Valley 2021: The Fun Goes Digital!

Flavors of the  Valley, the Upper Valley’s favorite local food tasting expo, will not be stopped this year! We’re moving it to May, with a month-long digital celebration of spring, our local farms, local food, and our local place. Local food stories, images, information, prizes, events, and FUN. All throughout the month of May! Dip in at your own pace and convenience, to join the community celebration of spring.

Sign up for the Vital Communities Food & Farm emails (monthly through May, then irregular and awesome), like us on Facebook, and/or Instagram (@vitalcommunities, #flavorsofthevalley) to enjoy, contribute, and remember the joy that our farms bring!

Stoneledge Stables

Our 2021 Farm-To-School Mini-Grant Recipients!

Ten Upper Valley schools and day care facilities have been awarded $500 mini-grants to support farm-to-school projects this year!  These grants are designed to help schools, afterschool programs, or school-related wellness programs  with projects related to farms, our agricultural heritage, farm products, food production, or local food consumption at the school. Applications were accepted through March 12.

Look at the great plans these educators shared with us in their applications! 

Tammie’s Day Care, Thetford Center, VT – Where does our food come from? 

Tammie Hazlett: For the purchase of a CSA share to use in my early childhood home program. Nutrition and cooking have been a major part of my program. Unfortunately, with COVID, cooking in my program is no longer a group activity and I expect that will be the case for most of the coming year. In lieu of cooking my plan is to allow my children to pick something out of each week’s produce box. We will then learn about the growing process, harvesting, determine what food group it belongs to and learn all the different ways we can process the food. We will figure out how we want to prepare that item to eat and it will become part of our meal. I am hoping that with the size of this share that I will be able to make things like jams, dilly beans, stewed tomatoes, and pickles from zucchini or cucumbers to send home with the recipes to my families as well.

 

Stoneledge Stables Norwich, VT – Three Sisters Garden Expansion

Sandy Bailey: During the spring of 2021, we are looking to expand our Three Sisters Garden curriculum by finishing the plant life cycle that students participate in during the fall of 2020.  During that time frame, students in our three day farm school harvested corn and squash(beans were harvested early in the season without students due to COVID). We also used the corn stalks for building and nature based art on the farm. We were excited to donate over 20lbs of squash to Willing Hands. Our goal as a classroom community is to triple our donation of food harvested by the fall of 2021. We are in need of expanding our garden footprint, buying curriculum supplies and soil.  Stoneledge Stables strives to foster caring communities by laying a foundation within our youngest citizens necessary to work as both individuals and members of a greater circle. We are in need of community support in this endeavor. 

 

Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School, Lyme, NH – Multi Tiered Raised Bed Installation

Blythe Keane: For years now Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School has been fostering a love of farm and food in our classrooms. We include within our curriculum lessons on the importance of different types of foods and how incredibly vital our farmers are to our communities. Further, we strive to teach our students the joy, pride and science of growing their own food. In the spring we start seeds in the classroom and then transplant them out into our small garden. We have found our garden space to be a barrier to this process and wish to both expand this learning and switch it up a bit.  We are looking for funding to purchase a multi-tiered raised bed structure.

There are a couple of motivations for this particular system. First off we have a wide range of heights within our student population and the tier structure will allow us to designate space to age groups. Secondly, we have seen first hand that little ones have a tough time not stepping on freshly planted rows and therefore raised beds offer a really effective method of planting for this age group. Thirdly, while we are all about natural materials we also see the value in this composite board system in that it will last much longer than rough sawn boards…we really want our/your investment to last as long as possible. Lastly, we are looking into moving to Vermont!  Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School is likely moving to a new location. 

 

Child Care Center in Norwich, Norwich, VT – KidsGarden Creation

Lisa Sjostrom: We plan to install a brand new “KidsGarden” consisting of six raised garden beds, surrounding fencing and a garden gate. Each classroom in our playschool community will have its own garden bed. Classroom teachers, children and their families will design, mulch, plant, tend and harvest the beds, giving children the chance to reap countless benefits. 

Benefits:  Gardening engages all five senses; enhances fine motor development; encourages healthy eating; requires responsibility (e.g., watering, weeding); regulates moods; connects children to farmers; promotes stewardship of the earth; creates a beautiful environment for learning and playing.

Rather than purchase pre-made raised beds, we plan to hire a local carpenter to tailor-design the beds for our sloped property.

Note: KidsGarden is part of a larger “green” initiative at our Center. For instance, we are hiring a part-time “chef” to prepare healthy snacks with foods from our farm share/CSA with a local farm and to do basic cooking with our children, age 2 and up.  “

 

Samuel Morey Elementary School, Fairlee, VT –  Planning for Refurbished Raised beds and developing a school compost program

Steven Lindemann: I am in my second year as Principal of Samuel Morey School, and I want to use the mini-grant to pay for consultation from Cat Buxton to help us assess the best use of the land  for raised beds, gardens, and a school compost program. My goal is to have our school have a vibrant garden and compost program like the one she helped set up at Thetford Elementary School. Jamie Bourn, our Director of Facilities and Operations, is on board to help me make our long term plan a reality. We need the expertise of Cat Buxton (and others) to help us get started efficiently and to help us create a sustainable system for maintaining gardens and composting.

 

Woodstock Union High School, Woodstock, VT – Farm to Table at Woodstock Union High School 

Kat Robbins: Woodstock Union High School focuses on developing our farm to table program and educating teachers and students on how to live a healthy sustainable lifestyle. This year we have been specifically focusing on production and growth of our outdoor garden. Students have been making plans and developing new strategies to increase the food production in our high school and middle school. Throughout the years students have grown and harvested vegetables and herbs from our garden to be used in the cafeteria for breakfasts and lunches. We would like to draw more attention to the garden. This mini grant will allow us to buy more supplies and increase the use of our gardens. We specifically would like to purchase more top soil and compost materials, new hoses to expand our irrigation system, shovels, row cover, and broad forks. Our main goal is to purchase a broad fork. We would like to start to utilize cover cropping as we move toward a no-till system. With this new broad fork we can incorporate nitrogen and carbon back into the soil, and help with weed and pest control. The rest of this grant will then be evenly distributed to purchase the other supplies and equipment needed to expand our garden. This money will be greatly appreciated and really help us advance our agriculture program, specifically our school gardens and their production of foods for the cafeteria.

 

The Hooper Institute, Walpole, NH – From A(asparagus) to Z (zinnias) in the Walpole Area School Gardens

Helen Dalbeck: In Walpole, NH we have three schools and in each schoolyard, the Hooper Institute educators have raised beds (34 total) growing vegetables, soft fruit, flowers, and herbs for the school kitchen and for the lessons we teach weekly in each grade Pre K – Sixth.  The Hooper Institute is an education institute devoted to teaching the youth of Walpole in five subject areas; agriculture, forestry, soils, botany and environmental science. The students and teachers work side by side with the Hooper to plan the gardens, spread compost and repair the beds, sow seeds, weed, mulch, and water. Our produce is organically grown with the no-till method and delivered fresh to the school kitchen and to local families in need via a summer school lunch program and the Fall Mt. Food Shelf. On the middle school site we have a high tunnel, currently growing spinach and winter greens. We will use those beds to plant seeds for our seedlings and for extra cut flowers. The zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers and marigolds were a much loved addition to the gardens last year, especially by the teachers and school staff. With your help, I would be thrilled to have more varieties, colors, cultivars and meet the goal of getting back to the basics with the alphabet challenge, from A to Z. 

P.S. Here is our alphabet challenge: asparagus, beans/basil, cabbage/corn, dill, ENERGY, fennel, garlic chives, HIGH TUNNEL, INTENTION, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, lettuce, marigolds, needs (turnips), onions, pumpkins/potatoes, QUESTIONS, radish, sage, tomato, UNDERSTANDING, VEGETABLES, winter squash, X marks the spot, yarrow and zinnias.

 

Upper Valley Waldorf School, Quechee, VT – School Garden Bed Preparation + Plant Protection

Peter Gile: A mini-grant would provide needed upgrades to prepare four garden beds (each 4 x 8 ft) at UVWS for student planting, observation, and production over the 2021 growing season. The beds are a place of engagement for all of our 125 students, from Early Childhood – Grade 8, who come from dozens of towns in the Upper Valley. Through academic instruction as well as summer camp programming, the garden is a natural learning space. Subjects such as botany, horticulture, art, cooking, and the pleasures of eating, to name a few, can be explored and deepened there. In the past, we have facilitated annual farm trips for our grades students. However, due to Covid safety guidelines, we are not able to do so this year. Growing a garden onsite would help us bring at least some of the experience to our doorstep. The garden beds are already established, and we have identified donors who are willing to provide seeds and plant starts, but are hoping for the following to help fertilize and protect the plants once established. Hardware cloth, Fertilizer, posts for trellising, fence wire, miscellaneous items as needed such as student harvesting knives, plant labels, etc. 

       

Hanover Street School, Lebanon, NH – Hanover Street School Garden Raised Bed Expansion

Maggie MacArthur-McKay: Hanover Street Elementary School has had an active school garden for the past 5 five years, involving students in grades K-4 in lessons ranging from plant life cycles, vegetable production, to the importance of pollinator friendly habitat creation and maintenance. For the 2020 season,  with the help of primarily 4th graders, the garden, comprised of 8 raised beds, produced 60 lbs of potatoes, 25 lbs of carrots and an abundance of kale, basil, cherry tomatoes  and lettuce. Due to the pandemic shutting down school in March, the root crops were donated to Listen Food Pantry. In prior years, our cafeteria has integrated school garden produce into lunch menus. 

This year, Hanover Street School garden team would like to add several raised beds to our garden area, with the intent of increasing root crop yield to be donated to Listen Food Pantry and used in our summer food delivery program. These partnerships will help keep our students fed over the summer, during a time when many families are experiencing new or worsening food insecurity. Additionally, two of the beds would be used to relocate and expand our sensory garden, which, in its first year last year, was a big hit among our intensive and special needs population in particular.  

Students will be involved in gardening activities during recess (4th grade), science class (3rd grade), and SEL time (1st grade). Currently, 5 teachers have expressed interest in student involvement with the garden this year: one 1st grade teacher, two 3rd grade teachers, one 4th grade teacher and one 2nd grade teacher. Our ELL and Intensive Needs teachers have also expressed interest in engaging their students in garden projects, and have been involved over the past several years. One member of the Garden Team will be available to run garden lessons and activities, and will have support from one of our reading teachers. 

Our Garden Coordinator, plans to share with family and staff a Summer Garden Care sign-up, and will be available 1-2 afternoons/week throughout the summer to work with community members in the school garden.

 

Sharon Elementary School, Sharon, VT – Raising More Veggies with Raised Beds

Keenan Haley: Sharon Elementary School was one of the pilot schools in 2005 for the farm-to-school program FEED (Food Education Every Day). It has been part of our curriculum since. Each class (grades K-6) currently has a raised bed, and the entire school has a large garden – planted and tended by students and their families. Our food service manager incorporates the garden harvest into our breakfast and lunch menus. We would like to create raised beds for the school garden as productivity is superior. The budget would include raised bed building material, soil and compost to fill them, cold frame building material to extend the season, seeds to plant, and new garden tools (clippers, rakes, watering cans).

Crowdfunding Available for NH Projects

New Hampshire businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, community initiatives: Do you have an incredible project just waiting to happen? Want to grow your organization, our community, and the local economy, but don’t have access to capital?

The Local Crowd Upper Valley is a rewards-based local crowdfunding platform that helps communities invest in local businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and initiatives that are mission-driven social enterprises. If your organization contributes to the community and could use a lift, apply to be part of a Route 11 Corridor cohort of campaigns.
Vital Communities is partnering with TLC Monadnock to bring local investment and capital access to the Route 11 Corridor of New Hampshire thanks to funding from USDA Rural Development.

Selected Route 11 Corridor proposals will receive a $500 stipend to produce a crowdfunding campaign video. Studies show that crowdfunding campaigns with videos raise four times more funds than campaigns without videos.

All crowdfunding campaign teams receive hands-on technical assistance to help them launch a successful crowdfunding campaign. Campaign teams also receive a free crowdfunding assessment to ensure that they receive the coaching and training that best fits each team’s needs.

Submit a proposal for 2021 crowdfunding campaigns if:

  • Your organization is based in Claremont, Newport, Kearsarge Region
  • Your project is budgeted for under $10,000 .
  • Your project is simple, achievable, and will generate excitement in your community (and, if part of a bigger project, has stand-alone value.)
  • Your project will create an economic and/or social benefit to your business and the community
  • You are able to invest time to build a successful fundraising campaign

Sample project ideas: Farm infrastructure, renewable energy installation, community garden or art project, vehicle to expand nonprofit service, capital to launch a new rural enterprise, food business equipment

Submit your project proposal by May 7, 2021

The Local Crowd Upper Valley will select up to eight projects to participate in this crowdfunding cohort, based on the potential of each project to positively impact their local economy and community. Selected proposals will launch their campaigns in 2021, with support and guidance from The Local Crowd Advisors.
The Local Crowd Upper Valley FAQ here.
 

The Local Crowd details:
You (project/campaign creator) will need to:

  • Form a Campaign Team to actively promote your fundraising project
  • Work closely with the The Local Crowd team to leverage training, marketing, and community outreach tools
  • Adhere to the keys of success promoted by The Local Crowd platform:  YOU share with your personal network. YOU make it happen.

You will receive:

  • Support from The Local Crowd team to run a successful funding campaign
  • Access to business development support from project partners including NH SBDC and SBA
  • Marketing and outreach support to spread the word about your project
  • Free Crowdfunding Readiness Assessment ($85 value)
  • Funds raised via the crowdfunding campaign for the designated project (less platform and credit card fees)
  • Opportunity to reduce platform fees if you meet campaign milestones

Questions? Contact 

nancy@vitalcommunities.org

Community. Connection. Capital.

Everyone Eats Comes to Claremont!

Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Upper Valley Everyone Eats model is crossing the Connecticut River: Vital Communities is working with Claremont, NH, partners to pilot a program in that city that will provide restaurant-made meals to people in need.

Beginning March 25, three participating restaurants (The Hitchin’ Post, Sunshine Cookshop, and The Common Man) will each prepare 65 meals per week for the Claremont Soup Kitchen, for a total of 195 meals per week. The restaurants will receive $10.90 per meal ($10 plus a 9% New Hampshire rooms and meals tax) and are asked to allocate at least 10 percent of their ingredient budget to New Hampshire farms and food processors. These nutritionally balanced meals are intended for anyone experiencing food insecurity or whose food insecurity has been impacted by the pandemic. The program is currently slated to run for 10 weeks. Partners hope this pilot will inspire enthusiasm for a larger-scale adoption of this model in New Hampshire.

“The Claremont Soup Kitchen is truly blessed to be chosen to participate in Everyone Eats,” said Cindy Stevens, the kitchen’s executive director. “This program is one more example of how amazing our community is and their willingness to look out for their neighbor. It is heartwarming to know that not only can we provide for those needing food assistance but also those who are struggling to keep their staff working.”

The Claremont program is modeled on Vermont Everyone Eats, for which Upper Valley Everyone Eats (UVEE) is the Upper Valley hub, administered by Vital Communities. Begun in August 2020 and slated to continue through June 2021, Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA). UVEE is a partnership of Vital Communities, LISTEN, the Upper Valley Haven, Willing Hands, and numerous Upper Valley restaurants and social service providers.

The Claremont program is also inspired by other programs around New Hampshire that connect restaurants to people facing food insecurity due to COVID, such as Community Kitchen of Keene, Community Meals to Go in Portsmouth, and the Monadnock Restaurant Project.

“This model, this pandemic response, has cropped up around the state, around New England, and the country because it’s so efficient and impactful,” said Lauren Griswold, Vital Communities’ coordinator of UVEE and the Claremont program. “With one source of funding it supports an economic sector and boosts community food security.”

As of March 14, UVEE had accomplished the following:

  • Meals served: 70,000
  • Individuals served: 68,300
  • Seniors served: 15,000
  • Revenue for restaurants: $700,000
  • Revenue for farms and food businesses: $46,500

For information about UVEE and Claremont Everyone Eats, check out the UVEE web page or email uvee@vitalcommunities.org.

The hottest spot in White River Junction this summer? A parking lot!

An underutilized parking lot behind the Hotel Coolidge in downtown White River Junction will become a vibrant, pandemic-safe place to eat, visit, and watch films and projection art this summer, thanks to an $18,000 grant from The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), and the Better Places partners.

The project also helps re-start the downtown’s First Friday celebrations, suspended due to the pandemic, with community arts projects and light and sound installations to re-animate the entire downtown and celebrate the arts community centered there.

The grant was obtained by a partnership centered on White River Indie Films (WRIF) and including the Town of Hartford, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, CATV (Community Access Television), the Briggs Opera House, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and local businesses and film and media artists.

Light River Junction First Fridays with WRIF” aims to revitalize White River Junction’s “First Friday” celebrations, disrupted by COVID, by attracting people of all ages back to the village through film and media arts. From May to August, WRIF will transform downtown parking lots into an attractive forum for safe dining and cinema viewing. Film, including work by local filmmakers, will be projected in novel ways in spaces enhanced by local visual artists. The project is expected to revive social interaction and economic activity through the arts in reimagined and ongoing ways that can offer inspiration to other Vermont communities.

“The vision originated in WRIF’s experimental ‘Light River Junction Festival of Cinema Light,’ a weekend of outdoor projection in downtown White River Junction,” explained WRIF Board Member Samantha Davidson Green. “In December 2020, we shouted out to local filmmakers, who shared their work freely for the public to enjoy safely—whether by car or through snow on foot—projected on buildings and in shop windows. Its success revealed how much the community craves the shared experience of art and the potential for re-imagining cinema and media arts events to draw people back to our hurting downtown businesses. The Better Places grant enables WRIF to partner with an amazing team of local organizations and the Town of Hartford, many of whom pioneered the First Friday celebrations years ago, in our efforts to revitalize our local economy and heal our community fabric through the arts.”

The project’s main site is the parking area at 40-50 Currier Street, behind the Hotel Coolidge and Gates-Briggs building, which owns the lot and supports the project. The lot is bordered on several sides by white-sided buildings that will serve as projection surfaces for cinema and moving image installation art. In addition, a portable screen will be erected in one end of the lot for screening high-resolution feature film content after dark. The site is adjacent to the Wolf Tree Bar and in walking distance from a half-dozen restaurants, making it convenient for outdoor dining.

The project also involves a number of other aspects, including community art projects and smaller film and video projections and sound installations at spots throughout downtown, with changing content by local filmmakers and sound artists.

These activities will be part of White River Junction First Fridays, which are scheduled for May 7, June 4, July 2, and August 6.

The project’s organizers see its impact as three-fold:

  • Boosting the local economy by stimulating downtown shopping and dining;
  • Helping our recovery from the social isolation of COVID with programming that is welcoming to all and accessible by public transportation; and
  • Supporting the creative economy—which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic shutdowns—by drawing people back to arts-rich White River Junction and showcasing works by local and emerging film and media artists, including participants in the Vermont- and New Hampshire-wide Freedom & Unity Young Filmmakers’ Contest and a CATV-sponsored Film Slam/festival.

The White River Junction project was one of only eight chosen from among 63 applications representing 54 communities across the state from Canaan to Pownal and Alburgh to Brattleboro. A total of $129,275 was awarded.

These grants will help communities reimagine and reopen public spaces for safe dining, shopping, and recreation, while showcasing the state’s unique sense of place. The community-driven projects ranged from village green and park improvements, to public art installations, alley activations, community arts centers, music and performing arts series, as well as other grassroots projects that bring people together safely in public spaces.

“Better Places grants are an important tool in our toolbox to help revitalize our communities as we recover from the pandemic,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I want to thank the Vermont Community Foundation, the National Life Foundation, the Vermont Arts Council, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the Vermont Department of Health for their work on this program as we support improvements in towns and villages across the state.”

“Public spaces can tell a story about our communities—they bring us together when accessible or leave us isolated when they aren’t,” says Vermont Community Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith. “The Community Foundation is committed to working with other state leaders to support projects that bring people together safely and contribute to the recovery and resilience of our economy, culture, and sense of connection.”

“First Fridays” started more than ten years ago through the collaboration of local businesses such as Revolution with the Center for Cartoon Studies, Main Street Museum, and others to celebrate downtown, becoming a community ritual gathering around the arts and local commerce.

With the exception of the past year, WRIF has presented an annual film festival and special screenings since its 2004 founding, in various downtown locations, at times in conjunction with First Fridays. WRIF and CATV have also partnered for film slams and screenings.

Free Webinar on Writing Waterway Quests, April 8

Valley Quests are treasure hunts set in special locations around the Upper Valley. Each Quest follows a unique set of clues that teach you about a place’s ecology, wildlife, and history while leading to a “treasure box” with a special stamp and log book for you to sign. But they’re not restricted to dry land! Wetlands, streams, and lakes are also among the special 160+ Upper Valley places that Quests explore.

Learn how to make your own waterway-based Quest in a webinar with Vital Communities’ Sandy Gmur on Thursday, April 8, 7 to 8 pm, sponsored by the Springfield (VT) Town Library and the Black River Action Team. Register here.

Come with ideas and questions for a waterway Quest of your own and work with Sandy and other participants to turn your idea into a Quest that could be added to Vital Communities’ Quest directory!

Having moved to the Upper Valley two years ago, Sandy has found Quests invaluable activities to help her get to know her new communities. With so many beautiful bodies of water throughout the Connecticut River Watershed using a canoe or kayak is a great way to introduce people to these special places.

Quests can help people appreciate a precious natural asset, says Kelly Stettner, director of the Black River Action Team. “Our waterways are priceless treasures in and of themselves, as places to boat and fish, swim and splash.  They also provide incredible value to the healthy function of the entire ecosystem: everything alive relies on clean water.  From turtles to trout, salamanders to songbirds, and dragonflies to deer (and everything in-between!), wildlife depends on our rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, and even wetlands and bogs to flourish.  By writing your own water-based ValleyQuest for a public waterway in your area, you can help visitors as well as residents responsibly explore and come to appreciate these fascinating and sometimes overlooked gems. Awareness of a river or lake is a first step toward appreciation and a desire to help keep it clean and healthy, fully functional for humans as well as for wildlife.”

Go here to learn more about creating your own Quests, as well as books and stamps to go with them!

 

Vital Communities Seeks New Board Members

Do you want to make a difference in the Upper Valley?

Vital Communities seeks new board members who share our commitment to inclusive, equitable, and long-term community engagement that cultivates the civic, environmental, and economic vitality of the Upper Valley. With 17 full- and part-time staff, a $1.4 million budget, and a service area covering 69 towns in NH and VT, we work with partners to lead projects in the areas of climate, economic resilience, energy, farming, food security, housing, leadership training, place-based education, and transportation. 

We are actively seeking to diversify our Board as part of our commitment to identify, include, engage and connect with residents of all ages, genders, races, cultures, faiths, abilities, professions, documentation status, income levels, sexual orientation, and geographic locations within our Upper Valley service area. Previous Board experience is not required.

With a new Executive Director building on our 25+ year history and crafting a vision for growth that enables the organization to bring more diverse voices to the table to inform the design and implementation of our projects, this is an exciting time to join the Vital Communities Board of Directors. Board members will be guiding the organization’s next strategic plan (2022-2025), ensuring that it aligns with community needs. They determine Vital Communities’ mission and purposes, ensure that programs align with the mission, and assess progress toward annual and multi-year goals. “The staff are doing amazing work,” said one Board member recently. “It’s so important…I get so excited about the programs being implemented and about Vital Communities overall.” 

Board members serve in a volunteer capacity for two- or three-year terms starting on June 1. Board member roles and responsibilities (listed on pages 3-4) include attending six meetings per year which are conducted either via Zoom or in person. Reimbursement for mileage and other expenses is available, and orientation and training are provided.

If you are interested in applying, please complete the application at the link by March 31, 2021. If you would like further information, please contact Barbara Barry, Board Member (bbarbellb@gmail.com) or Sarah Jackson, Executive Director (sjackson@vitalcommunities.org).

Apply here

 

BOARD AND MEMBER RESPONSIBILITIES

Expectations of Board Members:

  1. Understand the mission, policies, and programs of Vital Communities as well as an understanding its current and future needs;
  2.  Understand the financing of Vital Communities as well as its regularly circulated financial statements, as scrutinized and presented to the Board by the Finance Committee;    
  3. Share information about Vital Communities’ goals and accomplishments with diverse networks throughout the Upper Valley;
  4. Identify and secure individual donations for Vital Communities, and support Vital Communities staff as needed in identifying and securing other financial resources to further the cause of Vital Communities;
  5. For those in a financial position to make donations to organizations, contribute annually to Vital Communities’ fundraising appeals by including the organization among your top three nonprofit giving opportunities, thereby enabling Vital Communities to report 100% Board giving, as required by many donors;
  6. Identify and assist in facilitating new professional and social connections with Upper Valley individuals and nonprofit organizations that would be mutually beneficial;
  7. Assist the Nominating Committee in creating a board that reflects the diverse geographic, demographic, socio-economic and professional composition of the Upper Valley;
  8. Prepare for, attend, and conscientiously participate in board meetings (five 2-hour meetings per year plus one day-long retreat) and  serve on at least one committee of the board (variable schedules for committees, depending on focus and time of year);
  9. Participate in personal / professional development around key issues such as racial justice and in topics related to nonprofit Board best practices
  10. Identify and engage with at least one Vital Communities program and its staff members and, if the program has an advisory committee associated with it, attend at least one advisory committee meeting per year; and  
  11.  Attend at least one public Vital Communities event annually, apart from board meetings.     

Expectations of the Board as a Whole:

  1. Determine and approve the mission and purposes of Vital Communities;
  2. Select and evaluate the performance of the Executive Director of Vital Communities;
  3. Lead the strategic planning process, drawing on staff input and identifying emerging and evolving community needs, ensuring that programs align with Vital Communities’ mission and creating measures by which progress toward goals may be assessed and documented;
  4. Ensure strong fiduciary oversight and financial management of Vital Communities;
  5. Assist in fundraising and other resource development efforts;
  6. Share information about Vital Communities’ goals and accomplishments with diverse networks throughout the Upper Valley;
  7. Approve new programs; 
  8. Participate in annual Board self-assessment;
  9. Maintain a regular and open line of communication with Executive Director through the Chair and Executive Committee of the board; and
  10. Gratefully acknowledge and support the hard work and dedication of the Vital Communities staff members.     

Expectations of Vital Communities:

To support Board Members, Vital Communities will:

  1. Send an agenda and board materials in a timely fashion, prior to Board meetings;
  2. Provide new Board Members with an orientation to Vital Communities;
  3. Keep Board Members informed of organizational issues, financial challenges, etc. so that Board Members are able to make informed decisions during meetings;
  4. Provide information needed to participate in Vital Communities activities, advisory committee meetings, etc.;
  5. Offer ongoing Board Member education and training opportunities; and
  6. Provide Board Members with Directors and Officers Liability insurance.

Climate Partners Summit Resources

Climate Partners Summit Resources

On February 25, 2021, over 70 interested partners and citizens joined the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW) for a virtual Climate Partners Summit, featuring brief presentation from a variety of organizations working to address the effects of climate change in our community.

Click here for a video recording of this 90 minute event, or look for the “video clip” links in the text below to skip directly to a specific presenter.

UVAW co-chair Erich Osterberg, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College kicked off the afternoon event with an update on the latest climate science (slides | video clip). Another UVAW member, and host of the Summit, Kevin Geiger from Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, then provided a helpful explanation of what we mean when we talk about “Climate Adaptation” versus “Climate Mitigation” (slides | video clip)

The highlight of the event was a series of presentations from partner organizations, each presenting for roughly four minutes, aided by four slides. Their contact information, along with slides and video clips, are linked below.

Michael Caduto, Director – Sustainable Woodstock (slides | video clip)
Matt Cahillane, Program Manager – NH Department of Public Health Services (slides | video clip)
Kate McCarthy, AICP, Sustainable Communities Program Director – Vermont Natural Resources Council (slides | video clip)
Peg Merrens, Vice President, Conservation – Upper Valley Land Trust (slides | video clip)
Ron Rhodes, Director of Restoration Programs – Connecticut River Conservancy (slides | video clip)
Jack Spicer, Clerk, Climate Advisory Committee for the Town of Hartford (slides | video clip)
Graham Turk, Innovation Strategist – Green Mountain Power (slides | video clip)

Attendees were encouraged to subscribe to the Upper Valley Climate Action discussion list, an email-based service allowing anyone in the Upper Valley to share and discuss opportunities related to local climate action. Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup, the host of the Summit, encouraged organizations in attendance to consider joining the workgroup, which meets monthly to discuss and coordinate climate adaptation activities throughout the Upper Valley.

A follow up event will be held at Noon on March 24, 2021. This virtual Climate Connections lunch will feature casual, small group discussions on what we’re all doing to address climate change in the Upper Valley. Following an “Open Space” facilitation format, participants will propose topics at the start of the hour, then break out into small groups to discuss and make connections. This event is free an open to the public. Click here to register.

“Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”: Reclaiming Our Local Economy

“Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”:
Reclaiming Our Local Economy

Event series focuses on local investment as a tool for rebuilding our region’s economy

“When the pandemic recedes, we all will be called upon to take extraordinary steps to revive the local businesses that serve as the foundation of our communities. One critically important step will be for you and other members of your community to move your investment capital from Wall Street to Main Street.”                                       

– Michael Shuman, Community Economist  

After a year of COVID shutdowns, bankruptcies, deaths, and economic despair, how can we, as individuals, help rebuild our economy and community? A series of events and workshops over the next several months aims to provide information and resources about local investment AND opportunities for action. Yes, opportunities−in addition to the economic disruption and heartache, the pandemic has brought opportunities for relocalizing our economy, catalyzing innovation, and shifting capital to where we live to fuel the entrepreneurs, businesses, and projects our communities need to be more sustainable, vibrant, and resilient.

The Upper Valley Indie Impact Study reported that businesses rooted in the Upper Valley keep up to 4 times more money circulating in the region’s economy than national chain stores, and that remote online retailers suck hundreds of millions of dollars from our economy each year. Local businesses create stable jobs, enhance community character, and support our communities with donations of time and money, and have proven to be critical resources during the pandemic emergency. Browse resources on how to invest locally!

Increasing the development and success of more locally based businesses and innovations will make our region more resilient and strengthen our economy so that we can better handle future disruptions and challenges. Investment in these enterprises is critical to their success. Reclaiming our economy will require that we all “invest” in our future−whether by committing to shop locally more and click less, or by actually investing some retirement savings in the sectors, businesses, or projects that will make the Upper Valley a better place to live, work, and play for generations.  The goal of this series is to build awareness of the ways we can currently invest in reclaiming our economy as we recover from economic disruption, and to find new and creative tools and networks to move money from Wall Street to Main Street.

Many thanks for the sponsors of this event series: Mascoma Bank, King Arthur Baking Company, Savings Bank of Walpole, Hanover Co-op Foods Stores, Valley News, Monadnock Food Co-op, Green Energy OptionsNorwich Solar Technologies, LaValley Building Supply, The Local Crowd, The Keene Sentinal

Learn more about local investing on our resource page

Local Investment 101: How to Reboot the Region’s Economy After COVID-19

March 4, 11, 18, 25, 2021

5:30 to 7:00 pm

A four-session virtual workshop designed to help grassroots investors and community groups develop practical, local investment strategies, to fuel innovation and resilience in the community.  
Presenter: Michael Shuman, Community Economist and Author of Put Your Money Where Your Life Is

Small businesses throughout Vermont and New Hampshire have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, as have the local economies that depend on them. One readily available solution—one that does not depend on government bureaucracies—is to mobilize grassroots investment. Americans now have $56 trillion in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance funds—nearly all of it invested in global corporations. Here in the Upper Valley, one conservative estimate is that there are $5-6 billion in locally managed investments; this figure does not include the untold billions invested by local residents but managed out of state. 

Recent changes in the law (around investment crowdfunding, for example) make it cheaper and easier for nonaccredited investors to put money into local businesses. However, most of us believe we have no choice but to continue to invest our money in the stocks and bonds of the world’s biggest companies, even if we barely understand them. There are real alternatives, but few of us know about or consider them. In fact, you can invest in everything that matters to you. You can put your money into that neighborhood grocery store you love, your little sister’s first house, or your nephew repayment of high-interest student loans. If you’re smart about local investing, you can do this in a way that provides substantial, stable financial returns and lower risk than for Wall Street investments. Plus, local investments come with social returns on investment and wind up strengthening your community, local resilience, and the tax base.

Local Investment 101 aims to help participants answer three essential questions:

  1. How can I rebuild my community and the local economy after the ravages of COVID-19?
  2. How can I make my community more resilient to better prepare for future global crises?
  3. How can I move my money into the businesses, projects, places, and people I know and love?
Workshop structure:
Four 90-minute Zoom sessions built around 15 videos (20-40 minutes each) with homework assignments to be completed prior to each scheduled session.

Session 1

  • Introduction of the class objectives, materials, and assignments.   
  • Introductions of classmates to one another.  
  • Introduction to the first eight videos.

Session 2 

  • Review of the first eight videos.
  • Preparation for assignment #1 (a personal investment strategy).
  • Introduction to the final seven videos.

Session 3 

  • Presentation and discussion of assignments.  
  • Review of seven videos. 
  • Preparation for assignment #2 (a community strategy).

Session 4

  • Presentation and discussion of assignments.
  • Next steps.
Who should attend?

The Local Investment 101 series is intended to help grassroots investors, businesses looking for capital, and policymakers committed to facilitating local investment.

Cost:

$100 fee for the entire four-part series. Scholarships are available upon request (contact nancy@vitalcommunities.org).

About the presenter: 

Michael Shuman is an author and leading visionary on community economics, serving as Director of Local Economy Programs for Neighborhood Associates Corporation and Adjunct Professor at Bard Business School in New York City. He is also a Senior Researcher for Council Fire and Local Analytics, where he performs economic-development analyses for states, local governments, and businesses around North America. His three most recent books are:

  • Put Your Money Where Your Life Is: How to Invest Locally Using Solo 401ks and Self-Directed IRAs
  • The Local Economy Solution: How Innovative, Self-Financing Pollinator Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity
  • Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street

Register for Local Investment 101 Workshop Series

 

Local Investment: An Introduction

February 23, 5:30-7 pm

What is local investing? What can it do for a community? Why is it important? Who can do it, and how? Join us for a panel discussion with local and regional entities that are mobilizing local capital for local businesses, projects, and people. 

Panel participants:

  • The White River Investment Club – Peter Reed and Charlie Page
  • New Hampshire Community Loan Fund – John Hamilton
  • Vermont Community Loan Fund – Will Belongia
  • The Local Crowd – Jen Risley
  • Norwich Solar Technology Community Investment Impact

A virtual conversation to learn more about local investing from the people already doing it, and learn how you can put your money to work right here at home.  Watch this event recording.

Learn more about local investing on our resource page

Thank you to the Series Sponsors:

   

Mascoma Bank is a Certified B Corporation® which means we use “business as a force for good.” Practically speaking, being a B Corp™ inspires us to consider the impact of our business decisions on our communities, our customers, our employees, and our environment. It is helping us to discover new ways we can deliver positive change in the cities and towns where we work and live. For 120 years, Mascoma Bank has put community first. Our status as a B Corp™ is just the latest example of our commitment to the communities we serve.

   

King Arthur Baking Company is an employee-owned company, every one a bakers at heart. There mission is to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use our business as a force for good.

  
The Hanover Co-op Food Stores‘ vision is a well-nourished community cultivated through cooperation. With locations in Vermont and New Hampshire, the Co-op Food Stores is owned by more than 20,000 families, and is one of the oldest and most successful co-ops in the United States. Serving the good folks of the Upper Valley since 1936! Anyone can shop, member or not.

 

The Valley News is the Upper Valley’s source for news, sports, and more serving 22 western New Hampshire communities and 24 communities in eastern Vermont.

The Monadnock Food Co-op is a community-owned food store offering a diverse selection of local, organic, and natural foods to the Monadnock Region. The Co-op is located at 34 Cypress Street in Keene, NH.

 

For more than 145 years now, Savings Bank of Walpole takes very seriously the responsibility that comes with being our community’s truly local bank. We’re here to provide financial products that are in our customers’ best interest, not ours. It is and always has been the very foundation of our existence. More importantly, as the only bank headquartered right here in our community, we know that we are in business because of our community and for our community. This is our only home – and we know we cannot continue to thrive or survive without a strong local economy.

 

 

The leader is commercial, municipal & institutional solar solutions. Norwich Solar Technologies‘ mission is to continue to advance the integration and deployment of affordable solar power for regional organizations – enabling them to improve their bottom line while reducing their carbon footprint. Our clients include municipalities, community services institutions, schools, businesses large and small, and community solar residential clients.

 

Green Energy Options is a mission based certified B Corporation that supports the use of cleaner, more efficient, and renewable sources of energy. Specializing in residential solar, home heating and cooling, our team of energy experts provides friendly advice, quality products, and excellent installations to homeowners in the Monadnock Region and beyond. We listen carefully to our customers so that we can offer the best products for their needs. Our goal is 100% customer satisfaction. Please stop in, meet the team, take a tour of our showroom and talk about our shared vision for a healthy local economy and environment.

      

 

Series Partners:

       

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