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Serious side of the Stroll

This year’s edition of the Slow Living Summit explores the personal journey toward sustainability

For more information on the Slow Living Summit or to register, visit www.slowlivingsummit.org.

BRATTLEBORO—What must shift within for someone to decide to live the Slow Life?

The third annual Slow Living Summit, a spin-off of the Strolling of the Heifers, explores this question June 5 to 7.

According to Martin C. Langeveld, marketing director of Strolling of the Heifers and coordinator of the Slow Living Summit, the Summit represents the serious side of the Stroll.

Slowness, in this case, is a metaphor for sustainability and mindfulness, Langeveld told his audience at the monthly Brattleboro Citizens Breakfast, held last Friday at the Senior Center.

The movement started in Italy in 1986 with the slow food movement, itself advanced as an alternative to fast food, and as the voice of those championing traditional and regional cuisine and encouraging farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.

Next month’s summit is about people getting out of their heads and into a new way of life, Langeveld said.

Sessions at the Summit, held in downtown Brattleboro, will focus on sustainable living, resilient communities, and what Summit organizers call “the inner transformations necessary for living slow.”

Specifically, the Summit aims to reach across disciplines and spark conversations among thought leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, community leaders, artists, faith leaders, wellness practitioners, and other engaged citizens, Langeveld said.

Strolling of the Heifers, now 12 years strong, is the annual parade and weekend aimed at celebrating farmers, and educating participants about local food.

“It helps to put Brattleboro on the map,” said Langeveld, noting that visitors have hailed from 26 states and 400 ZIP codes during Heifer weekend.

This month, Livability.com ranked Strolling of the Heifers No. 8 on its Top 10 list of summer festivals nationally.

“We didn’t start Strolling of the Heifers just for that,” Lengeveld said.

Strolling of the Heifers has succeeded in helping connect people to their local food, provided farmers with micro grants, helped promote the creation of agricultural curricula such as the Farm to School program, and run a food and farm business competition in collaboration with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., Langeveld said.

Slow Living is a growing movement, Langeveld said, noting that all 50 states have seen an increase in new farmers. Although a number of those farms are small, and on rented land, and may not be the farmers’ only job, it’s an increase nonetheless, he said:

“[They’re] enriching the quality of food for all of us.”

For 2013, Strolling of the Heifers is collaborating with Vermont Technical College on a business competition focused on farm and food innovation and entrepreneurship, with $60,000 in prizes.

According to Langeveld, some 100 applications were received. Up to five finalists will be selected in the new and existing business categories; four finalists will be chosen in the student category. Winners will be announced Stroll weekend.

The Slow Living Summit grew out of the Stroll’s mission to connect people with local food and farmers. The Summit also stemmed from the Stroll’s Slow Living Expo, which has hosted green energy experts and alternative health practitioners.

The Summit became the avenue to expose the public to new ideas in sustainable business and slow living, Langeveld said.

“Once you get serious about doing local food, healthy food, you can’t do that in a vacuum,” Langeveld said.

For example, you can’t continue driving a “clunker car” if you’ve committed to reducing the effects of climate change.

The Summit is not just about food; it’s also about removing the “thought silos” numerous disciplines operate within, he said.

Attendees’ reactions to the summit’s inaugural year were positive, said Langeveld. In the second summit, the sessions focused on solutions to the problems facing local food, farms, community, and the environment.

Now, in its third year, the Summit will focus on the personal transformations organizers say are needed to make the leap to a slow and sustainable way of life.

Speakers at this year’s Summit include:

• Jonathan Lash, president of Hampshire College and former chief of the World Resources Institute.

• Robert Repetto, senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation; author of “America’s Climate Problem: The Way Forward” (2011).

• Frances Moore Lappé, founder of Small Planet Institute and author of “Diet for a Small Planet” (1971) and “EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want” (2011).

• Judy Wicks, author of “Good Morning, Beautiful Business: The Unexpected Journey of an Activist Entrepreneur and Local-Economy Pioneer” (2013); founder of the White Dog Café, Philadelphia; co-founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE); and founder of the organizations Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and Fair Food.

• Rebecca Jones, a Brattleboro dermatologist and Vermont state director for Doctors for America, a national organization of physicians and medical students working to guarantee quality healthcare for all. She also is the founder of the Vermont Greenprint for Health, a systems model for focusing on health instead of illness. She’s working with 350Vermont to create a statewide pilot project that would remove barriers to walking and biking as forms of exercise and commuting.

• Tom Barefoot, founder and co-coordinator of Gross National Happiness USA, which seeks to educate and encourage the use of alternative indicators to measure what matters. Barefoot has been president of Universal Micro Systems, Inc., for 32 years and served 12 years on the Vermont Public Interest Research Group’s (VPIRG) board, five years as president.

• Cathy Berry, a founding board member of Slow Money, and a founding managing director of Baldwin Investment Management, LLC, and active in direct food related investments, including Farmer’s Diner and Vermont Smoke and Cure here in Vermont. She is a family member and active participant of The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, which focuses its grant making in rural areas, mostly supporting agriculture and local communities.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #204 (Wednesday, May 22, 2013).

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