Good Things Happening: Village Green Publishing

Village Green Publishing (VGP) owner Jennifer MacMillen is an Upper Valley native with a passion for connecting people with the best of their communities. Her three publications in the region—The Norwich TimesTvgp-papershe Quechee Times, and The Lebanon Times—share good-news-only stories of the “good people, good places, and good things happening” in the communities they serve.

With features on “village elders,” students, community nonprofits, the arts, and engaged citizens, Village Green’s quarterly newspapers help residents get to know their neighbors and find inspiration in the stories and opportunities they present. Dedicated community members write the articles and share their photos, and sponsoring businesses in the region ensure each resident, business, and organization in town receives a copy delivered directly by mail.

This Local First Alliance member’s main objective is to provide a storytelling outlet—a kind of collective community journal. Every person, every business, every building has a story to tell, and Village Green Publishing provides the vehicle to share those stories that often go untold or only available to subgroups within a community.

More Good News

In addition to the quarterly print publications, VGP will be hosting a monthly talk show on the Upper Valley’s own community television channel, CATV. Aptly named, The Village Green will engage individuals and groups from around the Upper Valley in conversations about what’s working and what’s good in our region. The Village Green conversation show—and each of the print publications—is designed to inspire and invite community members to see and really focus on the good stuff that happens all around them every day.

Visit the Village Green Publishing website for schedule and programming information.

VGP welcomes topic suggestions, story ideas, and recommendations for individuals and organizations to feature. Please contact Jen MacMillen at or call her office in downtown White River Junction at 802.698.8184 with ideas!

Welcome Fall with Local First Members

It’s autumn in the Upper Valley once again, and Local First Alliance members King Arthur Flour and the Co-op Food Stores make it easy to welcome the season in good taste.

kingarthurflour_biggerOn Saturday, September 17, King Arthur Flour hosts its 4th Annual Fall Festival from 10 am to 4 pm in Norwich. Kick off the baking season with demonstrations and interactive activities for kids and adults, live entertainment, raffles, and of course plenty of delicious local eats to sample and buy.

Then on Thursday, September 29, the Co-op Food Stores are partnering with Vital CoopLogoFS
Communities to offer a butchering demonstration from professional butcher Jeff Withington to help consumers learn to make the most of their local meats. The demo, held at the Co-op Culinary Learning Center in Lebanon, also features delicious local food and beverage samples. Reserve your tickets today!

A common theme among Local First Alliance members is their commitment to giving back to the Upper Valley community. King Arthur Flour and the Co-op Food Stores have been leading companies in these efforts for years. Recent examples of their generosity include King Arthur Flour’s August Garden Table supper, which raised nearly $4,000 for Hunger Free Vermont, and the Co-op’s new Pennies for Change program, which raises thousands of dollars every month for local nonprofit organizations.

Whether you’re shopping, cooking, or just looking for something fun to do, remember to think Local First!


Heat Local First: Lyme Green Heat

When Lyme native Morton Bailey started his business, Lyme Green Heat—a new member of Local First Alliance this year—he was just a guy in a truck delivering bagged wood heating pellets to residential customers around the Upper Valley heating their homes with pellet stoves.

Today the thirty-something has grown the business to become the only bulk distributor of wood pellets in New Hampshire, serving commercial and residential customers with wood pellet boilers—central heating—throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, and even into Massachusetts.

“Being a local family I guess I never planned to go too far anyways, and being here in the Upper Valley and in New England in general, heating is a big part of our lives,” Morton explained when asked about why he started this local business. “I’ve always been the outdoor type, and I’ve always valued and been part of the wood economy, and it just made sense to start to look at this fuel as a way to heat people’s homes with a locally based product.”

The shift to bulk pellet delivery for central heating systems has been a big change over the last few years, Morton said, and he couldn’t be more excited to bring what he sees as an easy, renewable, local fuel source to the region.

“This is wood heat for everybody,” he said. “It’s just as easy as burning oil or propane but it’s locally produced and grown in your backyard. You’re literally eliminating that fossil fuel use, and that’s important as we move forward. In the big energy picture of New England, home heating is our biggest energy consumer. Fortunately for us we have this incredible resource, which is our forests, and when they’re properly managed and maintained we’re able to harvest that wood, turn it into an energy source, and in turn it’s going to regrow and be there for future generations.”

Thanks to Morton, Lyme boasts the highest rate per capita of residential wood pellet boilers in the state. And it’s not just because of his enthusiasm and his connections in town; it’s also because of his work to help establish and expand the New Hampshire Wood-Pellet Central-Heating Rebate Program, which now offers residents rebates of 40% of installed cost up to $10,000 for pellet boilers.

When Morton started bulk delivery seven years ago he sold 100 tons of fuel; last year he delivered nearly 5,000 tons. The wood pellet fuel market is growing, but it’s not easy.

“It’s a tough market going up against oil and gas,” he said. “As a company we see so much value in this whole local movement. The local food movement has had such an impact, and we want to be on the same level.”

In addition to using local products and serving local customers, Lyme Green Heat supports the local community and strives to do more. Last Arbor Day they provided saplings for the students at the Lyme School – a Lyme Green Heat customer – to plant and to learn more about how they heat their school. Lyme Green Heat also sponsored Vital Communities’ Upper Valley Energy Committee Roundtable in April.

“We’re just getting started on this end of things but I see it as a nice way for us to continue to community-build with our little enterprise,” Morton said.

Welcome to Our Newest Members!

Local First Alliance is growing!

We are thrilled to welcome The Skinny Pancake to the Upper Valley and to Local First Alliance. If you haven’t checked out this locally sourcing creperie, we highly suggest you make your way to Hanover and enjoy one of their sweet or savory crepes with some Kombucha or an ice cold beer from the bar. We personally recommend their Veggie Monster Crepe, paired with Harpoon’s Hoppy Adventure.

What’s truly wonderful about this new member is their emphasis on LOCAL. In September, The Skinny Pancake pairs with Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, to hold Eat X NE—A Local Vermont Food Festival that is free to the public. This event even offers a series of free ‘Go Local’ sessions from chefs and garden experts to increase local food consumption. Stay tuned for the 2016 date, and look forward to all the fun this team will be bringing to our Upper Valley!

We are also excited to have Farm-Way in Bradford, Vermont, joining our Local First Alliance ranks. Whether it’s new shoes, patio furniture, or boutique pottery, this place has it all. Known for their signature big red Adirondack chair out front, this Local First member specializes in Vermont gear for all weather and has just finished renovating their sprawling store. Family owned and operated since 1983, Farm-Way also sells camping gear, hunting gear, and kayaks.

What sets this business apart is the fact that they operate on 100% SOLAR ENERGY since 2015 thanks to a massive solar photovoltaic installation that they began in 2009. Farm-Way’s love for the environment also extends to Vital Communities’ Valley Quest program,  where they have sponsored the Super Quest since 2014. Thank you, Farm-Way!

Local First Alliance membership is growing every day! For more members, check out our local business directory or “Look for the Logo” when shopping for goods or services.

Meet the Winners: 3rd Annual Upper Valley High School Communications Competition!

Local First Alliance was thrilled to hold its 3rd Annual Upper Valley High School Communications Competition with the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center’s (HACTC) Media Arts class. As part of their year-end project, students were tasked with designing a marketing campaign promoting local, independent businesses and specifically encouraging use of the Local First Alliance online business directory.

“We love working with the Tech Center because it draws students from throughout the Upper Valley region rather than just one town,” said Emily Gardner, manager of the Local First Alliance at Vital Communities.

Working with their teacher, Felicia Allard, and Local First Alliance members who specialize in communications and marketing, students each designed Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in the categories of television, radio, and print. Three winning submissions were chosen based on creativity, overall design, technical application, and clarity of message.

Congratulations to Lydia Pecor of Hartland, VT for her print PSA, Ben Clifford of Canaan, NH for his radio PSA, and Emily Williams of Windsor, VT for her print PSA. The winners received a cash award donated by Mascoma Savings Bank, Lake Sunapee Bank, and Vital Communities, as well as $100 gift cards to Lebanon Village Pizza courtesy of Great Eastern Radio. Great Eastern Radio also generously provided gift packs to all students who participated.

LFA ad 1 LFA ad 2

Emily Williams                                                           Lydia Pecor

“We knew we wanted to reach more young people with the message of shopping locally so we specifically sought to engage youth in the creation of  the message,” said Allan Reetz, communications director at the Co-op Food Stores and a member of the Local First Alliance steering committee.

The winning PSAs will be used in Local First Alliance’s ongoing outreach campaign.

Special thanks to Allan Reetz (Co-op Food Stores), Erika Gavin (Co-op Food Stores), Ken Wells (Mascoma Savings Bank), Nichole Romano (Great Eastern Radio), Jake Blum (Systems Plus), and Tom Roberts (Vital Communities) for providing feedback and guidance throughout the process with the students. Special thanks also to Mundy Wilson Piper, owner of Chippers, who will, for the 3rd year, be adding a print PSA to the side of one of her fleet trucks!

Congrats to our seniors and long live a local Upper Valley!

Growing Our Community and Building a Better Upper Valley

Local businesses are the lifeblood of our Upper Valley economy. It’s not just that 45 cents on the dollar stays local when spent locally (compared to 15 cents), it’s also the accountability that comes from living in the same town as the business you own.

Our Local First Alliance members have a vested interest in seeing our region thrive because it’s their home too. This inherent sense of responsibility manifests in many ways. For some of our members, it means re-investing in our schools and charities, for others it represents environmentally friendly business practices.

Local First Alliance member Chippers is dedicated to providing high quality service to customers while upholding their strong commitment to the people and environment of the Upper Valley. A tree and lawn care company, Chippers began in Woodstock, Vermont, in 1986 and boasts an impressive list of professional arborists, gardeners, landscapers, and forest specialists. Their slogan states, “We’re all about your life outside,” but it would seem that they are actually “all about our community in the Upper Valley.”

Impressively, Chippers donates to over 40 charities and nonprofits throughout the region. Active in many youth initiatives, such as Change the World Kids and Project Grad, they proudly display the winning student artwork from Local First Alliance’s High School Communications Competition on the backs of their garden trailers. Speaking of their fleet, Chippers’ emphasis on environmental responsibility means they continually update their trucks with fuel efficiency vehicles. You can feel good about using this Local First member since they have community support AND green policies written directly into their mission statement.

Another Local First Alliance member doing their part reduce their environmental impact is LaValley Building Supply. Preferred Building Solutions, a division of LaValley’s, manufactures energy efficient modular homes here  in Claremont, New Hampshire. These innovative houses provide a 45% savings in heating and cooling costs each year.

LaValley’s also makes it a point to give back to a variety of organizations across the board, supporting family programs like those at the Montshire Museum, the arts scene at the newly renovated Northern Stage, or helping end sexual violence and domestic abuse through the Turning Points Network. LaValley’s promises their customers competitive pricing and a store where we you’ll find “Neighbors…Building a community together.” There is nothing more local than caring for your home and the people in it. 

With spring finally here, these two improvement specialists are guaranteed to get you ready for summer and have you feeling good about supporting our local businesses. For more great stores, restaurants, and service providers, visit our searchable online directory.

Remember to keep it local and look for the logo – Local First Alliance.

Local First Alliance vs. The Month of April

Spring is here (sort of)! And with spring come April showers…and then there is flooding.

Not to worry, Local First Alliance has you covered with A.B. Gile insurance, just one of our many amazing local business service providers. Located and founded in Hanover, A.B. Gile has been serving their Upper Valley clients since 1871. They can help you navigate through the tricky world of FEMA National Flood Insurance and recommend the perfect policy for your home, apartment, car, or business.

When they aren’t spending all their time making sure you have the best coverage, A.B. Gile is donating to over 75 local nonprofits like Northern Stage, Lebanon Opera House, and the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. Because they call the Upper Valley home, they take care to reinvest in the community we all care about.

If April flooding isn’t enough for you, lets not forget it’s tax season! If you’re one of those people who likes to wait until the last minute or maybe you have a complicated business to reconcile, we have just the man for you. Local First Alliance member John Ring CPA is an IRS registered tax preparer who has called the Upper Valley home for more than 40 years. Raised in Claremont and an 11th generation Northern New Englander, John makes a point to shop locally, live sustainably, and reinvest in his community. “Local First Alliance matches my beliefs as a local,” he says. John Ring specializes in representing both individuals and locally owned, family businesses. 

Remember, when you are shopping for goods or services, think Local First. We have a searchable member directory full of businesses that can help with any challenges a New England spring can present.

It’s also important to remember that with April showers come May flowers…and then it’s summer.

A Champion of Local First: Mascoma Savings Bank

Upper Valley businesses choose to be members of Local First Alliance because they want to strengthen our region’s economy. They also believe that a strong economy starts with ensuring a vibrant, engaged community.

While Local First Alliance member Mascoma Savings Bank gives to countless nonprofit organizations, for the last 6 years they have been an active supporter of our Valley Food & Farm program here at Vital Communities.

Each year, we host Flavors of the Valley, a local food tasting expo aimed at introducing area residents to their local food producers and purveyors. The goal of Flavors is to encourage local food consumption and support the farmers who are so crucial to our region. This year, Mascoma Savings Bank will sponsor our Upper Valley Farm to School activity section at Flavors of the Valley. Children will be able to celebrate local agriculture while learning about our farming system with hands-on activities and interactive demonstrations. The above picture shows 3-year-old Willow Wood, of Sharon, studying beans, the April Harvest of the Month, at Flavors of the Valley 2015.

When Mascoma Savings Bank isn’t supporting new farming initiatives, they are engaging with the seniors of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center as they design our new Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for Local First Alliance.

“We all really appreciate having a meaningful class assignment for an organization that helps our communities,” said Damien Murray , 2015 graduate of HACTC and Television PSA Submission Winner from Lebanon. 

Watch for our new PSAs this spring as we kick off our 3rd Annual High School Communications Competition. Students will work with Local First Alliance members to create professional pieces for their marketing portfolios. Winners will be chosen in the 3 categories of television, print, and radio.

Together our Local First Alliance businesses are making our Upper Valley a more beautiful place to live. Join Mascoma Savings Bank and our other members at Flavors of the Valley on Sunday, April 10, from 11 am – 3 pm at Hartford High School.

For more amazing Local First members committed to revitalizing our region, please check out our local directory.

Remember to keep it local, and look for the logo!

Local First Business to Business

Local First Alliance is a coalition of local, independent business owners who are committed to reinvesting in our Upper Valley economy. And what’s better than shopping locally? Spending your business dollars at another local business!

Whether you are tech geek, or an advanced web designer, Systems Plus Computers in Lebanon, NH has got your business covered with the latest computers, equipment, and gadgets to keep your office running smoothly and operations at their best. Owner, Jake Blum is a founding member of Local First Alliance, serves as a volunteer firefighter/EMT for the city of Norwich, VT, and contributes to over 100 area non-profits and charities.  Fulling their commitment to be an environmentally responsible business, Systems Plus established a local compute-recycling program that allows customers to safely recycle their old computer equipment removing more than 50 tons per year of toxic electronic materials from the Upper Valley waste systems. 

Perhaps you just need to give your business a little boost. Do you need a stronger online presence? Maybe you need to overhaul your advertising? Don’t go it alone. Let Local First Alliance member, Nomad Communications, be your go to place for marketing strategy. A dog loving office located in Norwich, VT, they are a group of artists, designers, and self-described “digital-savants”. Continually working with area businesses and organizations, Nomad donates countless hours in discounted graphic design to forward the mission of Vital Communities. If you need a real pro in the office, we highly recommend Abby Clark who creates beautiful designs to promote our fundraising efforts throughout the year.

For more businesses who can help you with your business, please check out our searchable online directory. 

Interested in joining? We would love to have you.

Co-op Food Stores – Local First Member with a Foodie Twist

The holidays are over and there is still a lot of winter left before spring. If you’re looking to drive the cold away, consider stepping into the warmth of the kitchen at the Co-op Culinary Learning Center, a branch of Local First Alliance member Co-op Food Stores. This beautiful facility is open to members and non-members alike and features some of the best food our region has to offer. Director Eli Morse is a passionate teacher and an avid food lover. With a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and a background as a chef, he works with local farmers, head chefs, and food purveyors to provide a wide array of classes to fit all experience levels. Topics include how to de-bone your farm-raised meat, the perfect pairing of local suds and cheeses, or how to create a sustainable seafood feast. Whether you’re looking for a wine tasting or a beginners cooking class for kids, Eli has something for everyone and an ever-changing list of topics and guest presenters.

LFAMixer9-15_CreditMollyDrummond (8)

The Culinary Learning Center is located to the right of the C0-op’s Centerra Marketplace location and can be accessed by entering through the Cafe. Members receive discounted rates and all are welcome. For a list of Co-op Culinary classes and other great events from our Local First Alliance members, check out our online calendar.

Need a great local business? Search our online directory.

Remember to keep it local and look for the logo – Local First Alliance.

* Photo credit – Molly Drummond

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