Celebrate Our Community

Building a stronger community is a primary component of Sustainable Woodstock’s mission, so we are excited about participating in a grand event being planned for the Woodstock Green next Friday evening, Aug. 21, aptly called “Celebrate our Community.”

The event will include a chicken dinner grilled by members of the Woodstock Fire Department, along with watermelon and beverages served by our Police department and ambulance crew. The Woodstock Farmers’ Market and the Worthy Kitchen helped obtain and prepare the chicken. Those attending are asked to bring a salad to share–in a reusable container if possible.

Town and village officials will lead a short ceremony to honor Mary Riley and Butch Sutherland for their service to Woodstock. Mary is retiring after many years as Administrative Assistant to Town Manager Phil Swanson, while Butch retired several months ago as the longtime Chief of the Fire Department.

The rest of the evening, according to Village Trustee Candace Coburn, “offers the opportunity to visit with each other. It’s a time when neighbors may visit with neighbors- not always easy in these busy times.” Planners are expecting about 1000 area residents to attend.

Sustainable Woodstock will be supporting the event in two ways (besides promoting it as we’re doing here): First, we will coordinate the collection of recyclable and compostable materials, to make the event as close to zero waste as possible. Foley Distributing is contributing materials to help in this. Second, we are providing funds to enable the purchase of chicken that is sustainably raised in Vermont rather than shipped from factory farms in distant places.

The point of this second contribution might not be obvious, so let me explain. With the need to purchase such a large quantity of poultry, we see an opportunity to support our regional food system, keeping dollars circulating within the state to help build up our agricultural capacity. Long-term resilience depends on a robust food system that can feed a greater portion of the region’s population. Many organizations, foundations, and government agencies are working on this task; here is our opportunity as one community to contribute in our modest way.

We recognize that sustainably raised, locally sourced chicken is more expensive, indeed beyond the budget of many households. The way the corporate agribusiness system is currently structured avoids the true costs of quality food (in terms of the environment, fair livelihoods for farmers and farmworkers, and other factors). In the short term this gives us cheaper food, but in the long term we will all pay for damage to the natural environment, to a viable agriculture and to our own health.

We won’t change this system overnight, but we can, and should, look for ways to build up an alternative system. Farmers’ markets, CSA’s, community gardens, farm-to-school programs and other initiatives are reinvigorating a regional agriculture across New England and especially here in Vermont.

The need to serve 1000 people at one sitting is an opportunity to add one more piece to the puzzle, and Sustainable Woodstock is willing to subsidize this piece because it supports Vermont agriculture while raising awareness of the choices we can make to relocalize our food system.

Getting back to the event itself, Candace told me that this year’s event was planned by Phil Swanson, Chief of Police Robbie Blish, the Selectboard and the Trustees. She reminded me that there is a history to the community celebration.

“This event began as an Elementary School get together,” she said, “and grew into inviting the entire community. For many years the event was held at The Billings Farm & Museum. The first time Celebrate Our Community used The Green was for the Irene Dinner, when we provided dinner for about 1,200 people. Because the night was so successful, much in part to Mary Riley’s efforts, we thought what better way to honor Mary and Butch than to host an event on The Green.”

See you next Friday night!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *