When I think about why this mom loves Vermont, many of the usual things come to mind: fresh air, unspoiled spaces, beautiful mountains and valleys, room to roam, and the ability to play outside all year long. Vermonters love the outdoors.
We Are Curious about Diversity
Vermont is not often recognized for its racial or ethnic diversity, in fact, we frequently appear in the media with the unfortunate distinction of being one of the whitest states in the union. Recent trends provide evidence that our minority population is growing, particularly in Chittenden County, but the numbers are still minuscule.
But there is still a lot to love: when we do have an opportunity to share with each other and learn about the diversity around us, Vermonters tend to be interested.
While our state is small and sparsely populated, we are home to four recognized tribes of Native Americans. Native culture has not held a prominent place in state history but this is something we are working to change, through programs like the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s training on how to present Abenaki Culture in the classroom.
The Clemmons Family Farm, a Black-owned farm on nearly 150 acres of beautiful Vermont farmland, is one example of how Vermont honors the scant but vibrant racial diversity in our state through events, lectures, training, and conferences.
Vermont was the first state in the union to support gay civil unions and the fourth to legalize gay marriage. Much of the country followed suit, but Vermont broke the ground for treating people who are LGBTQ and people who are straight equally.
Vermont welcomed our new, nationally-known athlete, opera singer, Spanish teacher, mom, and resident, Mirna Valerio, with open arms. Mirna’s joy in being a Black woman who is simply loving life in Vermont is as infectious as her smile; in a short time, she has touched many Vermonters of all shapes, sizes, and skin colors with a unifying message that is subtle yet powerful: I love Vermont for all the reasons you do.
Our schools celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan with joy. We attend ethnic food pop-ups and Afro-Caribbean dance festivals, hungry to soak up something new.
When Vermont Mom contributor Davida Murray wrote about her life as a Hasidic Jewish woman in Vermont, I was among many readers who were transfixed, so curious and deeply grateful that she shared her perspective.
Diversity is not always visible, or even available, in Vermont, particularly when we think about racial diversity. Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder. And if all else fails, we do have our collective curiosity.
Freedom to Be
My class performed the musical “Free to Be You and Me” in elementary school. (Ironically, I experienced suburban Connecticut in the 1980s as one of the least free places I have ever lived, but kudos to the teachers for trying.) Forty years later, the words are indelibly etched in my mind: “Sing a song… for a land through the green country.” I migrated to Vermont for many of the usual reasons, but at the core of my migration is freedom: the freedom to be. In Vermont, we find the freedom to be ourselves.
Finding freedom to be myself may seem small compared to the essentials of human life that so many across the globe struggle to attain. Sustaining our happiness is at stake. I am able to feel comfortable wearing leggings all day, showing up in an exercise class where everyone else is decades younger, going for a walk in the dark, and forgetting my dress shoes forever. It’s our choice… because we live in Vermont. In Vermont, I have freedom to be me.
Simply Good Food, For All
I don’t think I can write a Vermont Mom post without talking about food, and Vermont food is hands down one reason this mom loves Vermont.
Time and time again we hear about comparatively small Vermont producers winning major national and international awards. There’s a reason for that! We are fortunate to have access to a large variety of fresh, flavorful and nutritious locally made food, from winter CSA shares at our local farms, to chef-prepared specialties for that fine dining occasion, to Vermont brands that are well-stocked in any grocery store.
Perhaps more importantly, Vermont has also taken steps to increase food access. Programs like Crop Cash, a double-value coupon program hosted by the Northeast Organic Farming’ Association – Vermont actively encourages the purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds and starts at farmers markets that accept 3SquaresVT/SNAP benefits. This year Bread and Butter Farm in Shelburne introduced a sliding scale for their CSA shares, and another new program provides farm stand gift cards to people experiencing food insecurity. I value that all in our community are given pathways to buy local food, wherever and whenever we want. That makes Vermont special.
Seasons, and Their Intensity
For a while, my sister wanted to move to North Carolina. Many years ago I had a boyfriend from there and I remember enough about what it was like when I visited that I attempted to dissuade her. (Confession: I mostly wanted to keep her nearby.) But here in Vermont, we love our seasons and their intensity. I know Vermont year-round is not for everyone. But that spring breeze is so much sweeter after a deep freeze. The maple tree sap does not flow – and neither do I – until a long winter gives way to days where the mercury climbs above freezing. Like a maple tree, I am built to endure a cold winter and treasure the opportunity to relax and restore in preparation for vibrancy. I also celebrate a cheerful spring, a red hot summer sun, and a colorful autumn. I would not have it any other way.
Our Stories, One Word at a Time
Our stories, and the value we place on them, are one reason this mom loves Vermont. Our stories reflect our culture; they weave history one word at a time. Vermont’s stories are everywhere, etched in roadside historical markers, spoken and written in school competitions, carved in stones in centuries-old cemeteries. A number of organizations like the Vermont Folklife Center, and people like Erica Heilman of Rumble Strip Vermont, and Thea Lewis of Queen City Ghostwalk actively curate a river of biographical records through the stories they tell. I love that we, as a culture, celebrate our stories and honor our storytellers in so many different ways.
Proximity to Cities
Vermont’s cities are small, our character is rural, and chances are that wherever you may go you are not far from wild places. Even so, Vermont is within a day’s drive to Boston, New York, and Montreal. Our proximity to three major cities and many more populated areas feeds our tourism economy, and it is also a two-way street, providing an outlet for Vermonters who would like to experience something different. This relative closeness to cities is even more important to me now that my son is surveying his next steps as he prepares to fly our Vermont nest for college. We have so much in the Green Mountain State, but sometimes our next chapters require something different. I am thankful that there is a good chance my son will not go too far away as he prepares to cross that border and journey into a different world, and I hope that someday as an adult, he will once again choose Vermont to come home.
In an earlier career, I traveled to trade and consumer shows to promote Vermont vacations. I can’t tell you how many times people would clasp their hands wistfully and say, “Vermont… so beautiful…” I didn’t have to sell anything. Vermont’s brand is strong thanks to our cheese, beer, ice cream, skiing, hiking, foliage, farm animals, and covered bridges.
Vermont is famous. But there’s something special about Vermont that goes beyond our reputation. When it comes to Vermont, our collective parts are greater than our whole. Our culture lies at the foundation of every pretty photo. That’s why this mom loves Vermont. How about you?
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