Between History and Innovation: East Warren Community Market (Mad River Valley, VT)

June 30, 2019

2019-05-16 22.29.36Going to East Warren is a bit like stepping back into the Mad River Valley’s history. On the way there I stop at the restored round barn, one of the few left in the state, an innovation dating back to the time following the Civil War, now used for cultural and social events, and as the setting for the inn next door.

East Warren was the first settlement in the valley, and in the early 1800 most of the valley’s community was in East Warren, rather than in Plainfield at the center of the valley. East Warren Community Market still carries the link between tradition and innovation. It occupies the site of East Warren’s old school, which it has renovated. Read the rest of this entry »

Traveblogue: Impressions from the Mad River Valley, VT

June 13, 2019

2019-05-21 20.30.08I have spent much of the last three weeks in the Mad River Valley and have explored it from a variety of angles, including ‘from above’ in a two-day backpacking on the Long Trail that borders it to the west. These have been three weeks of meeting with great people and initiatives in the food system. On the first sunny Friday I went from one end to the other of the valley: from the Camp Meade shopping center, where the Red Hen Bakery is located, to the East Warren Community Market at the other end of the watershed. In between I later explored the connective tissue of the Mad River Food Hub and Taste Place, which has introduced many new food ventures to the area, and helped expand the operations of older ones. Three places, three styles, three contributions to the local food system.

Undoubtedly a valley of seemingly unassuming charm that steadily grows on you; one that can shine in different ways with the seasons and attracts both winter and summer tourists. Part of it comes from a sense of spatiousness and great vistas, and a habitat that has preserved the charms of small towns without traffic lights, billboards, or the invasive presence of corporate markets and restaurants. The consciousness promoting local food is present in the various farm-stands along Route 100 in the middle of the valley. The spirit of support to the local economy is visible everywhere down to the colorful Waitsfield gas station/market/deli. Read the rest of this entry »

Systems Thinking at the State Level? Relish Rhody, a Food Strategy for Rhode Island: the Steps

May 5, 2019

Relish Rhody

The first part of my journey into the New England food systems has taken me to Rhode Island where a series of dynamic players in the state have rendered possible a new outlook into the future of the food system, which has brought about Rhode Island’s Food Strategy, summarized in the Relish Rhody document.

While I stayed in Providence I was lucky to be able to interview many of the people who have been very close to the forming of the new policies: Sue AnderBois, the RI Director of Food Strategy, Diane Lynch, Chair of the RI Food Policy Council (RIFPC) and the main initiatives that work around the food system: Hope and Main’s incubator kitchen and some of their entrepreneurs, Southside Community Land Trust and their gardeners, Farm Fresh, the market vendors, trainees and the population they serve; as well as initiatives relating to the fishing industry: Kate Masury of Eating with the Ecosystem and Fred Mattera of Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation . I interviewed Eva Agudelo who is setting in place the first gleaning organization in the state (Hope’s Harvest) and chef Andrew McQuesten of North restaurant about what it means to juggle with changing supplies of local fresh food; Keith Cooper of Beautiful Day Granola and others.


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Traveblogue: impressions from a Rhode Island Food Hub

May 1, 2019

Screen Shot FFRI Winter MarketIn my first two weeks in Providence I went to the offices Farm Fresh RI to discuss the work of the organization first, then to the last indoor market of the season the next day, and worked at the Harvest Kitchen Program for an afternoon a few days later. I’m writing now from Harvest Kitchen Local Foods Café (operated by Harvest Kitchen) savoring a Korean bowl with local carrots, pickled mushrooms and kimchi.

What strikes me most is the variety of ways that Farm Fresh has devised to connect with farmers, growers, consumers, youth, schools and local residents. Farm Fresh operates 8 summer farmers markets in RI and facilitates transactions in many more. Right now it is transitioning from its winter market to the summer markets.  Read the rest of this entry »

Traveblogue: Views from a Kitchen Incubator

April 13, 2019

2019-04-08 19.59.15My planned 1 hour visit to Hope and Main, in Warren, RI, ended up taking four and I got to explore the whole site, hear stories from staff and local entrepreneurs, and have lunch with some of them. Waterman Brown, director of business operations, and husband of the founder, showed me the four commercial kitchens, the demonstration kitchen, the dry, cold and frozen storage facilities.

Hope and Main occupies a school building, dating back to 1915, which had been vacant for years in downtown Warren, RI. The project is the brainchild of Lisa Raiola, and the result of a health ordeal overcome and a mission that, Raiola says, met her. Read more here. Read the rest of this entry »

Traveblogue: Impressions from the FINE Summit, April 2-4, Amherst MA.

April 5, 2019

My journey into the world of socially generative networks has started with a deep dive into the food system through the work of Farm to Institution New England gathering all players in the food system, as well as a variety of related networks (e.g., Vermont Farm to Plate, Food Solutions new England) at the 2019 Amherst FINE Summit.

Fine Summit Logo

The kick off was a Tuesday field trip to Western Mass Processing Center in Greenfield, MA (part of the Franklin County CDC). This is a kitchen incubator that has opened in 2001. It operates as a shared-use kitchen and processing facility for start-up businesses in the food sector. Since its beginnings 450 businesses (not only food related since some just rent office space) have graduated, of which 65 last year. Among these: Art Bev, which sells Katalyst Kombucha among others, and still operates in the premises; Real Pickles, which won two 2019 Good Food awards, and a very successful photovoltaic solar company, PV Squared. Equal Exchange has an office on the premises in the interest of the business connections that it can weave with like-minded initiatives. Having access to all sorts of kitchen, processing, packing, labeling equipment, plus storage means rendering all operations highly affordable for young entrepreneurs in the region. It saves them from the upfront expenses of often very expensive equipment (the surprising price tag of a labeler alone: $ 55,000!) The facility rents its kitchen space for $ 50/hr, less then half of its real cost ($ 108/hr). The processing center covers its shortfall with donations. In addition customers receive trainings in all aspects of technical assistance (certifications, planning, accounting, marketing, labor issues, etc.) Read the rest of this entry »

Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi- sector, and multi-scale governance networks

October 13, 2017

SW Cover Front without name

Steve Waddell’s book Change for the Audacious: A Doer’s Guide to Large Systems Change for Flourishing Futures reads like a thorough introduction to the emerging reality of Large Systems Change through multi-stakeholder, multi-sector, and multi-scale governance networks. This book will allow you to acquire an understanding of an emerging reality that may defy your immediate level of experience. It will give you an idea of how to contribute to the paradigm shift that is quietly appearing behind and between the present structures of power. It will serve us here as an introduction to a number of key ideas and practices. Read the rest of this entry »

Aztec and Iroquois: Myth, Rituals and Political Models

November 11, 2013


Iroquois Longhouse

The unity of the Iroquois League comes about in a first step through Hiawatha’s repentance of his deeds, mediated by Deganawidah. In this experience he beholds the reflection of Deganawidah’s face in the water, believing it is his own. Struck by the beauty of its features, he realizes his shortcomings, particularly his cannibalistic habits, and consciously decides to repair all evil done. He will later embark on the odyssey of taking on the redemption of his people. This will require of him a great willingness for self-sacrifice, especially after the death of his wife and daughters at the hand of Atotarho’s magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Nations and Aztecs: Prefiguring Modern Political Models

November 5, 2013


The Five Nations  1The Modern Age began in the 15th – 16th centuries. This meant, among other things, the awakening of the scientific frame of mind so well represented in Europe by the achievements of the Renaissance. This was also the time that opened up the “discovery” and colonization of the New World. America did not experience the great change of consciousness in the way it occurred in Europe. Rather, the American genius prefigures the deeper essence of progressive and decadent modern political regimes. The two social alternatives that symbolize this watershed in North America gave birth to social structures and “social rituals.” Their nature differs diametrically.
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Citizen Deliberative Councils: Revolution for a New Democracy

October 27, 2013

Creating the capacity for public wisdom in twenty-first century America is no greater challenge that that faced by our country’s original Founders. But this is our task, our calling. We are the revolutionary founders of this new democracy, a democracy that will have an impact at least as great, and probably greater, than the impact their revolution had on the world almost 250 years ago.

—Tom Atlee (Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics)

Multiracial Hands Making a Circle TogetherCitizen Deliberative Councils (see previous blog) convene a small group of very diverse citizens, a cross-section of all stakeholder groups, selected in a statistically significant random fashion; and they hold conversations and deliberations through tested methods of facilitation. Read the rest of this entry »