Reflecting on Six Years With Sustainable Woodstock

By Ron Miller

Last week I completed two 3-year terms on the board of Sustainable Woodstock, serving as its chair throughout my second term. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to my colleagues on the board and the many volunteers and donors who have given their time, effort, and financial support to make this a better community for all. I also want to say how gratifying it has been to work side by side with Executive Director Sally Miller and outreach coordinator Zach Ralph, who are knowledgeable, committed, tireless advocates for sustainability.

SW Annual Meeting

This community is fortunate indeed to have an organization that focuses such energy and dedication on the challenges of sustainable community development. Global economic and ecological trends are volatile and troubling, and it is quite apparent that “business as usual” is not likely to guarantee us a secure or desirable future. We need to work deliberately for resilience, which means thinking and acting creatively to build a stronger, more self-reliant community. It means rethinking how we use energy, where our food comes from, how we can support local enterprise and make sure all our neighbors are thriving. Resilience means that we have a strong sense of place and align our economic choices with it.

One of the most hopeful aspects of this work is that it brings people together in pursuit of a common good. Against the backdrop of this country’s current divisive and ugly political climate, local resilience requires no ideological commitment or policy agenda. We might disagree about whether a carbon tax is a good idea, but surely it is simply good to help neighbors reduce home heating costs, to grow food together in community gardens, to turn a long neglected patch of “jungle” into a riverside park.

At last week’s Annual Meeting, Sustainable Woodstock recognized community members who contribute to our resilience through their everyday actions. The Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship received the annual Energy award for their efforts to generate renewable energy with solar panels and to reduce their overall consumption. The organizers of the area’s three farmers’ markets—Neil Lamson of the Mt. Tom market, the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce (represented by Beth Finlayson) for the Market on the Green, and Anne Dean for the winter market—all received Sustainable Woodstock’s Food award.

The award for Economic Development went to Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co., not only for maintaining a vibrant local food business, but also for their generous donations to community events. Marie Hanson, a ranger at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, earned the Education award for her longtime dedication to helping people of all ages engage with nature and the ecology of this place. Sustainable Woodstock gave a special East End award to Jim Pierce and Derek DeMas for their devotion to the riverside park project. Finally, Lynn Peterson received the Anne Dean Award for promoting better forest management practices and raising awareness of the important role woodlands can play in absorbing atmospheric carbon.

All these folks, as well as those who’ve been recognized over the last several years, are quiet heroes. Their actions are not particularly radical or extraordinary, but they reflect care for community, place, and nature. This is something we can all do in our daily lives. And Sustainable Woodstock is here to help.

Do just one thing: Get involved with Sustainable Woodstock! Check out to learn about upcoming events and current projects.

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