Heroes & Leaders: Creating a Vital Upper Valley

Every spring, Leadership Upper Valley, a program of Vital Communities, hosts the annual Heroes & Leaders Celebration to recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the Upper Valley. In 2019, we are pleased to honor 12 Leaders who add immeasurably to the vitality of our region. Read about these honorees below.

Liza Bernard and Penny McConnel met at a book discussion group and years later opened the Norwich Bookstore in 1994. Liza Bernard moved to the Upper Valley in 1977. She managed the Vermont State Craft Center in Windsor before starting her own business creating handwoven and hand-knit clothing. She worked at art galleries and consulted for art exhibitions across Vermont and did a short stint at King Arthur Flour, where she helped compile their 200th Anniversary Cookbook. A founding member of Local First Vermont, Liza was also a founder and enthusiastic promoter of Local First Alliance. Liza has served on the board of League of NH Craftsmen, the Child Care Center in Norwich, and the Abbott Memorial Library in Pomfret, where she lives. Penny McConnel and her husband Jim Gold have lived in Norwich for 41 years. Penny has always worked in retail and became a bookseller in 1981 at the Dartmouth Bookstore. She was a buyer there and later at a bookstore at the Powerhouse Mall. Penny has served on the boards of the Vermont Public Radio Advisory, Vermont Humanities Council, New England Independent Booksellers Association, and is presently on the boards of the Norwich Public Library and Norwich Senior Housing.

Len Cadwallader started his professional career running an after-school tutoring program in Johnson’s War on Poverty program in Lackawanna, New York. He worked at the Farm & Wilderness Camps in Plymouth, Vermont, for 21 years, first as Business Manager and then as Executive Director for 13 years. After a brief stint as the Executive Director of Kendal at Hanover, Len was hired in 2000 to become Vital Communities’ first full-time Executive Director, a position he held for 11 years. Throughout his professional career, Len always took time to get involved with social justice issues. For example, Len accompanied the Guatemalan couple who had lived in Sanctuary for 10 years at the Benedictine monastery in Weston, Vermont, when they decided to repatriate to their homeland. For the past two years he has commuted to the Massachusetts prisons where he co-facilitates anger management workshops in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) program.

Delia Clark was Founding Director of Vital Communities, serving from 1993-1999. She is currently Principal at Confluence, where her work focuses on building sustainable communities through facilitating civic engagement, place-based learning, heritage interpretation, strategic planning, and community dialogue. She is a frequent trainer and facilitator in these areas throughout the United States and internationally, for organizations that include National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, Shelburne Farms, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Delia is the co-author of Questing: A Guide to Creating Community Treasure Hunts published by University Press of New England; Learning to Make Choices for the Future: Connecting Public Lands, Schools and Communities Through Place-based Learning and Civic Engagement; Building Skills for Effective Facilitation; and other manuals and chapters that have collectively been translated into six languages. Mother of three grown children, Delia lives in Taftsville with her husband, Tim Traver.

Ivy CondonIvy Condon is deeply involved in her community as a native of Claremont. There she helps to coordinate programs and events as the Center Coordinator at the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center. Ivy is also in her fifth year as the Stevens High School girls’ varsity basketball coach. She works with volunteers from the girls’ teams each week at the Community Center to teach young children the game of basketball. In her spare time, Ivy and her husband run a basketball club, the Claremont Lady Hornets, which includes girls from 3rd through 12th grade in the Claremont area. Ivy enjoys being a positive role model for the many youth athletes and young adults she has contact with in Claremont. Ivy has a strong passion for her community and is on the Healthy Vibrant Claremont Committee, which works to bring positivity and needed changes to Claremont.

Edgewater Farm is a family farm located along the alluvial plains of the Connecticut River in Plainfield. Originally a five-generation family farm owned by the Colby Family, Pooh and Anne Sprague have owned and operated Edgewater Farm since 1974. Although initially the Spragues maintained outside employment, they were encouraged by their county agents to try growing strawberries on the farm. The first strawberry crop was harvested in 1976, and from that point other crops were added to accommodate market demand. By 1983, both of the Spragues were working full time on the farm and, along with a few greenhouses, they opened their Route 12A Plainfield farmstand. Today they grow vegetable and ornamental bedding plants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and vegetables. They sell products through their greenhouses, farmstand, and CSA, as well as at select locations in the Upper Valley. Edgewater Farm donates to area food shelves through the local nonprofit organization Willing Hands. Pooh and Anne—along with their children, Sarah and Ray, daughter in-law Jenny, and 36-year veteran Mike Harrington—are involved with managing the many different aspects of the farm. With their third generation growing up on the farm now, they continue to take a long view of land stewardship.

Jarvis Green is a director, performing artist, and cultural worker from Anderson, South Carolina. He moved to Vermont in 2011 from New York City and founded BarnArts Center for the Arts in Barnard in 2012. He is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of JAG Productions and the former Director of Theatre Arts at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret. Jarvis received his training at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, as well as South Carolina’s Anderson University and Governor’s School for the Arts. Jarvis has developed work with The Public Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre, Village Theatre, 5th Avenue Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Capital Playhouse, BarnArts Center for the Arts, ArtisTree, Northern Stage, and North Country Community Theater. In 2017, Jarvis accepted the New England Theatre Conference’s Regional Award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theatre on behalf of JAG Productions, in recognition of sustaining theatrical excellence.

A strong work ethic, a passion for helping others, and a sincere love of animals have been at the core of Curt and Sharon Jacques’ life and their business. Curt’s background as a top-performing territory sales manager and nutrition specialist for a national feed company and Sharon’s professional training as a nurse combine to form a unique mix of technical knowledge, drive, and heartfelt compassion that conceived a remarkable destination retail location and valued home to some 35 employees. Curt and Sharon purchased West Lebanon Feed & Supply in 1995. In 2007, they opened an 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that celebrates the human-animal bond. The business has since developed into a nationally and internationally top-awarded store in its industry. Now, Curt and Sharon’s vision of “Your Life, Your Style, Your Store” takes new shape through their venture GooberPick, as they continue to find innovative ways to serve the people and animals in their lives.

Tunbridge resident Prudence Pease created a career dedicated to advancing the lives of others in her local community and across Vermont and New Hampshire. She has been involved with many organizations in the Upper Valley including The Family Place, Orange County Parent Child Center, Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council, and Community Partnership of Orange-Windsor. Since 2014, Pru has worked for Granite United Way designing and implementing the Work United initiative in the Upper Valley. A journey that began with one full-time employee and five business has now grown to a team of three full-time resource coordinators serving 11 companies in the Upper Valley. Prudence is a certified Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator and has trained more than 16,000 individuals nationwide, drawing on her compelling personal story of growth and change. A graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute, she is a highly sought-after speaker on the topic of economic diversity.

Monique Priestley is a designer, gamer, geek, and connector. She founded The Space On Main in Bradford, Vermont, as a nonprofit in 2017 in hopes that it could promote a greater sense of community and connection for people living and working in the Upper Valley. Monique believes strongly that everyone has a responsibility to give back to their communities. In Bradford, Monique holds several elected positions and serves on a number of town commissions. She is a director for Vermont Council on Rural Development, Global Campuses Foundation, Cohase Chamber of Commerce, Cohase Rotary Club, and Little Rivers Health Care. Monique volunteers as a mentor and was a member of the 2018-2019 cohorts of Leadership Upper Valley and Changemakers’ Table. She was named Cohase Chamber’s 2018 Citizen of the Year and Vermont Attorney General’s March 2019 Vermonter of the Month. Monique also telecommutes full-time for CampusCE Corporation in Seattle.

Stan Williams is Chairman and CFO of ValleyNet, the nonprofit operating partner of ECFiber. ECFiber is a Vermont Telecommunications District formed by 24 towns seeking to provide high speed Internet to every location in its member towns using no taxpayer funds. ECFiber has raised $32M of institutional financing to date and is more than halfway to its initial goal of covering 1,400 “underserved” miles of the 1,700 miles in its towns. Stan’s prior career was spent financing and developing networks in the US, Italy, and the UK with Cellular Communications, Cellular Communications of Puerto Rico, Cellular Communications International, and NTL (now Virgin Media.) Stan and his wife Jenny live in Norwich. He is a member of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation and Upper Valley Land Trust boards (and a former Vital Communities board member) and has been an Upper Valley devotee since his family bought a summer camp on Crystal Lake in Enfield in 1973.

Doug WiseDoug Wise has a lifelong passion for using his talents to make a positive difference in the community. Doug graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959 and then earned his MBA in Marketing from Columbia University. He spent his career working in international marketing for major multinational corporations, has been a visiting professor in Pace University’s MBA program, and has been cited as one of America’s top business leaders and thinkers. Throughout his career, Doug has also been an active community member in the Upper Valley. He has served on a variety of boards and councils, including for Leadership Upper Valley, Ledyard National Bank, the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, Upper Valley Land Trust, AVA Gallery & Art Center, and numerous others. He continues to be deeply involved with Dartmouth College. Doug lives in Grantham with his lifelong partner Joanne, where together they have hosted more than 10 international Dartmouth undergraduate students.

Chuck Wooster and his wife Sue purchased Sunrise Farm in White River Junction in 1999, and Chuck brought the old farm back into production the following year as a seven-member vegetable CSA. Fast forward to 2019, and Sunrise Farm CSA has 300 members, has expanded to a second farmstead on Route 5, and, in addition to year-‘round organic vegetables, produces pasture-raised lamb, chicken, and eggs, and maple syrup, honey, and firewood. Chuck has been an active volunteer in Hartford, serving on the Selectboard, Conservation Commission, and as Town Moderator. He has also volunteered as a board member for the Upper Valley Land Trust and for Vital Communities’ Food & Farm program. Chuck writes on agricultural issues for the Valley News and other publications as time allows.

Flavors of the Valley Vendor List

Check out the hottest new vendors and returning favorites! Samples are listed if the vendor has provided sampling information. Vendors will also have many delicious items for sale! All the details on Flavors of the Valley can be found here.

April 7, 11 am – 3 pm at Hartford High School. Don’t forget to buy tickets in advance for the 11 am-12 pm hour- only ticketed attendees will enter during 11 am-12 pm. Tickets at the door for 12 pm-3 pm admission.

Special thanks to our amazing sponsors!

Mascoma Savings Bank, Co-op Food Stores, King Arthur FlourThe Skinny Pancake

Yankee Farm Credit, NH Dept. of Agriculture, Great Eastern Radio

Photo by Molly Drummond

Join our team as a Communications Intern this summer!

Are you looking for a summer internship in the Upper Valley? Do you know someone who is? Vital Communities is looking for an intern to assist our Communications team from May through September. The position will entail drafting content and providing support for a range of communications projects, including social media promotion, both print and digital newsletters, WordPress blog posts, an annual report, and more. Check our job description for details, and, if interested, email our Communications Manager, allison@vitalcommunities.org, with a resume, cover letter, and writing sample. We’ll review applications on a rolling basis and the job description will be posted on our Employment Page until filled.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Bringing ‘Visions of a Better World’ to Your Community

Join Vital Communities for a community discussion on “Visions of a Better World: Social Movements for Transformation.” We will consider how millions of people across the U.S. and around the world, stirred by visions of a better world, are daring to rethink and reinvent institutions on local, regional, national and international levels. Often unnoticed by the mainstream media, they are establishing new possibilities in the shadow of dysfunctional and collapsing systems.


Historian/educator Ron Miller, coordinator of the Woodstock Learning Lab, provides an overview of these diverse new visions, including movements and concepts such as the “new economy,” agroecology, permaculture, transition towns, food sovereignty, relocalization, reclaiming the commons, Slow Food and Slow Money, and others. This presentation and conversation will discuss the key concepts, leading thinkers, and origins of these evolutionary trends.

Join us for a vital dialogue that digs into the contemporary shifting landscape of our time. Thursday November 8, 5:30–7:30 pm at Vital Communities, White River Junction.

Donuts & Hogwarts: A Transit Travel Training Case Study

One thing a group of Millennial cartoonists doesn’t need is help using a smartphone app – especially an intuitive one that shows the real-time location of buses in the rural transit system, Advance Transit. No, a lack of tech savvy is not the barrier keeping these students off the bus. It’s more like,

“Cool, there’s an app, but how do I know the name of the bus stop out front?”
“Does the bus go to the theater where Black Panther is playing?”
“I’m just nervous to try the bus—what if it doesn’t show up?” 

Over Vital Communities’ two-year partnership with Advance Transit to promote their real-time bus system, we’ve learned that it often takes a little extra to get people confidently riding transit. “Travel training,” which traditionally only serves people who need special assistance, can be valuable to almost anyone.

Car ownership is low among the several dozen students at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) in downtown White River Junction—a Master of Fine Arts program in sequential art. The school has consistently promoted Advance Transit as a way to explore the Upper Valley. But in talking to several alums, we discovered that many CCS students were hesitant to try the free bus, and tended to stay close to campus.

We decided to change this by partnering with a recent graduate now employed by the school –who had never been on Advance Transit either but was eager to help. He distributed a simple graphic flyer (right and below) to students that promised a Friday afternoon bus trip to neighboring Hanover to get donuts from famed Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery and visit Dartmouth’s “Hogwarts-esque” Baker Library.

On a sunny February day, I met a dozen students and alums in the school’s lobby. I prompted them to download Advance Transit’s real-time app and gave them a bus system overview—how to find the bus stops, which routes run where, etc. Then we walked around the block to the bus stop and took the 15 minute trip from White River Junction to Hanover, New Hampshire.

Once in Hanover, we picked up an overstuffed bakery box of assorted donuts from Lou’s and walked across the Green to Baker Library. The students had a great time

digging into the comics and graphic novel section of the library “stacks” and then tiptoeing through the ornate Tower Room.

Many had never been to Baker before—even though CCS maintains a library card there for its students. But now this vast resource is only a short bus ride away.

Aside from giving a few pointers, I didn’t have to do much after the students boarded the bus in White River. That’s just it. Simply getting them on the bus that first time undid the majority of their concerns about the bus. After all, they had watched the bus’s movement on the real-time app while they waited at the bus stop, and then a knowledgeable and friendly driver picked them up on time and took them to Hanover, as promised. Sure, they still had to learn their way around town and get on the right bus, but the bus was now a known and trusted entity. Perhaps Robyn, an alum, put it best: “I just needed someone who knew the system to go with me the first time.” And remembering the impact of a coworker first taking me on Advance Transit almost two decades ago, I think she’s right.

– Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Program Manager at Vital Communities/Upper Valley Transportation Management Association

Market-Fresh Cooking Demos

Love to shop at the farmers’ market, and want to learn a new tip or recipe for cooking with all the great produce that is available this month?

Join local chef Holly Pierce for weekly cooking demos at the Hanover and Greater Falls Farmers’ Markets during the month of September!

Shop with Holly as she visits the market vendors to select ingredients from the bounty of local food available this time of year.  Then watch her create a dish that you get to sample. She’ll share the recipe as she goes and have other recipes to share that highlight enjoying the abundance of the Upper Valley late summer harvest!

Wednesdays at the Hanover Area Farmers’ Market from 3-6 pm
September 5, 12, 19, 26

Fridays in Bellows Falls at the Greater Falls Farmers’ Market from 3-7 pm
September 7, 14, 21, 28

The Norwich Bookstore is the BOM!

Celebrate The Norwich Bookstore as the September Business of the Month!

And as a founding Local First Alliance member, The Norwich Bookstore has been and an anchor business in downtown Norwich providing the community with expert service, diverse products, and keeping the local economy moving for 24 years! The Norwich Bookstore has been on a mission to deliver newly released titles or your favorite classics in whatever format you like: printed, ebooks, and now digital audiobooks.

For the month of September enjoy listening to books and get 30% off by using the code BOM2018. These audiobooks are available through our indie partner, Libro.fm, and all sales support our store. Choose from over 100,000 titles!

Audiobooks are easy to download through the store website: norwichbookstore.com. You can listen on your iPhone, Android device, or personal computer.

Liza Bernard and Penny McConnel

It has been said that Liza Bernard is a force of nature; at the very least, she’s certainly a force of the local economy.

Along with business partner Penny McConnel, Bernard opened the Norwich Bookstore in 1994 and has been a key player in the “Local First” movement in Vermont and the Upper Valley ever since. Read more about the bookstore that bucked the trend of online book buying in this Valley News Enterprise business magazine article.

As a locally-owned, independent business, we participate in many aspects of our community. We create jobs and pay local taxes. We support schools, libraries and a number of other not-for-profit organizations. We encourage you to help keep the Upper Valley a great place to live, work, and play: Think Local First when dining out, banking, hiring professional services, or shopping for anything — including audiobooks.  – Liza Bernard

Mascoma Bank is the BOM!

Celebrate Mascoma Bank as Business of the Month August 6-17 and support three nonprofits while you’re at it!

Mascoma Bank has put community first since 1899 and as their way of celebrating being the BOM, Mascoma Bank will 

donate $1 each to COVER Home Repair (another Local First Alliance member!), Monadnock Humane Society, and AHEAD (Affordable Housing, Education & Development

when you comment why you love local on the Mascoma Bank Facebook page. Share your favorite locally owned stores, restaurants, markets, bank, nonprofits, businesses, and services.

Let them know how local businesses support your community through donations, sponsorships, volunteering, and other good deeds. Love the quality products and service at the businesses owned by your friends and neighbors – share it and Masoma Bank will support three valuable nonprofits that strengthen the fabric of our community!

Congratulations to Mascoma Bank becoming a B Corp this year! Read more about what that means to the bank and our community below.

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For Mascoma Bank it was never a question of if, but more so, when would we become a Certified B Corporation. Joining the ranks of more than 2,500 businesses worldwide focused on doing business for the right reasons was a natural progression for us. Mutuality has always been the cornerstone of our culture. By joining forces with like-minded businesses, we can make an impact greater than we ever imagined. The vision and values of B Corp is the next chapter for a bank steeped in the tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, doing what we can to participate in making our communities an enjoyable, happy, healthy, safe places to live.

Certified B Corporations sign a Declaration of Interdependence identifying that together we can make a tremendous impact by expanding the traditions of giving back, sustainability, environmental protection, transparent business practices, and well-being for our employees and communities. It is not an agreement that is taken lightly. This global movement is dedicated to making positive change in a big way. We are not alone in our vision. Together with companies like King Arthur Flour, Boloco, Ben and Jerry’s and Cabot Creamery our impact will be felt right here in the communities we serve.

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Building a relationship with Mascoma Bank is more than opening accounts and securing services, it is active engagement in the many ways we give back. You become something much greater than just an account holder. We support countless organizations and non-profits, not just by monetary donation through internal committees and Mascoma Bank Foundation, but we roll up our sleeves and get to work with hands-on giving as well. By doing business with Mascoma Bank you choose to be a part of something that will make an impact for good, today and years to come.

Power of Produce Clubs

Power of Produce Clubs are fun, free, and filled with fresh local food. Fourteen locations are hosting Power of Produce this summer. Visit our POP page  or download the schedule here. Kids sign up at the POP Host table and learn about the day’s produce-based activity. It might be a scavenger hunt, a quiz, an easy salad recipe. When they’ve completed the activity (everyone’s a winner!) children receive $2-3 of kids-only market money to spend on produce. Kids can come once or come many times, during the hours listed below. No need to sign up in advance or come at a certain start time. It’s a wonderful way to connect children with healthy eating, healthy shopping, local farms, and fun! Get the details!

Farmers’ Markets are Truly Local

Download the printable area Farmers’ Market Calendar! See a full online area market schedule here! Farmers’ markets are truly local, and that’s as true today as it was 20 years ago. You don’t have to worry about reading labels or reading between the lines, because you can talk to the farmer. Get the real story behind your food, learn how it was made and why. These things matter to you, and hearing directly from the producer is best.With over 20 area markets you can meet hundreds of local producers and find the foods that make you smile.

Special activities for kids and the Friend of the Market card are just two of the exciting programs this summer at many markets. You can find details here.

So download the printable area Farmers’ Market Calendar. It’s handy for work, home, car, church, school… share your love of local with your communities.

Beautiful market photo by Molly Drummond!

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