July 3rd, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
I could go on and on about the reasons that I love Vermont– and if you’ve read my previous blogs, then you’d see that I already have. Its hard not to feel passionate about a place that values community as much as Vermont does. And it only makes sense that this week, only a few days away from the 4th of July, and a few days past the terrible tragedy that occurred in Arizona, that I write a little about community.
The week of Independence day is always an intense one, whether its because we’re just beginning to experience the real hot days of summer, or because its jam packed with planning for the in-laws to arrive for a mid-day BBQ, this week is usually a memorable one. A huge part of what makes this week is so memorable and important is because of the fireworks displays. Fireworks have the innate power to move people. I can still remember the faint sniffles and tears I witnessed from my grandmother as she listened to the womping sounds of the fireworks and the way their explosive colors filled the entire sky, several years ago. And she wasn’t the only one that was touched by them– little girls stood with their mouths open in total awe of the booming, cracking, bursts of color and light…. new parents would hold their babies close to their chests and cover their ears to protect them from the noise, while the couples would lean on each other and savor the closeness of the moment, surrounded by neighbors and friends.
Its nights like these, where the whole community huddles together and just takes a moment to breathe that I find so special. Some people may think that you have to live in a big city to get to watch great fireworks, but that certainly isn’t true, especially not in Vermont where even the smallest communities make it a point to get outside and celebrate together.
If you’re local, and are looking for Vermont fireworks, click here.
However you choose to spend your 4th of July week, be sure to take some time to soak in the beauty of the moment with the people closest to you!
June 13th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
When I was younger, one of my favorite events of the year was the local hot air balloon festival that took place in my town (Pittsfield, New Hampshire) each year. While it wasn’t the Quechee balloon festival, it was a hot air balloon festival all the same. I loved the way that it would bring the whole community together for a day of fun and celebration, despite whatever else was going on in the world and on the news. It seemed like even the busiest people in town always made time to come down to the festival to watch the hot air balloons or to just be in the presence of friends, family, and community members. Kids loved it too, because they’d get to come and run around and go on rides with their friends (plus there is usually cotton candy and all sorts of other goodies too). And there really is just something special about hot air balloons. They are whimsical, and magical in a way. Magical in that they never fail to give you that feeling of childhood excitement, wonder, and awe as you watch them rise. Maybe its the way their colors light up in the sky, or the fact that they get to float amongst the clouds…either way, a hot air balloon festival is a spectacular event that every person should get to experience at least once in their life (but hopefully more)!
This weekend is the 34th annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon festival, taking place in Quechee, Vermont! The weekend festivities include music from a bunch of great bands that will be playing continuously throughout the weekend, tasty food, a kiddie zone for the children, a beer and wine garden for the adults, tons of talented Vermont artists and crafters, vendors of all sorts, and hot air balloons of course!
I truly hope that you get to enjoy the unique and heartwarming experience that a small town hot air balloon festival provides– and if not this year, maybe next year!
For more information on the festival, check out their official website and Facebook page.
June 12th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Last year I started reading about Vermont’s Working Lands Enterprise Initiative. Paul Costello, the Executive Director of Vermont’s Council on Rural Development had begun leading a movement to protect the Green Mountain State’s pastoral landscape from unplanned, unsightly, unsustainable development. I don’t know Paul personally but I see him as a modern day Paul Revere who leveraged the power of the Internet to spread the word about how we can use sustainable agriculture and forestry to build a thriving rural economy in Vermont.
In a very short time frame, Paul and his band of “working lands” believers have achieved unbelievable success, including getting Vermont’s legislature to allocate $1 Million in grant money for green businesses willing to pitch in and help. The idea was to provide incentives to “stimulate a concerted economic development effort on behalf of Vermont’s agriculture and forest product sectors by systematically advancing entrepreneurism, business development, and job creation.”
It was just one of those lucky moments in life when I read about the Working Lands Grant last year as we were in the middle of planning our new Vermont-made furniture gallery at Stonehurst. We were a perfect match for the grant. Our furniture is all made in Vermont. It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and made from Vermont grown wood when practicable. We support all the links in the economic chain from the forest through the land-owner, forester, sawyer, lumber yard and craftsperson to the customer. The whole Stonehurst concept of raising awareness about where your furniture comes from and how it’s made fit the grant criteria like a glove.
Fast forward a year. The Working Lands Enterprise Boards have worked tirelessly all year, developing their concept, selling it to the public and the Legislature, securing funds, soliciting competitive proposals from businesses and evaluating those proposals. Last week it was time for them to make a decision on which businesses would win the awards.
Drum roll please. Ta Da!! Vermont Woods Studios was selected for a $100,000 grant award to be used to complete the construction and landscaping of our Stonehurst Vermont Made Furniture Showroom. This is a huge achievement for us and one that will allow much of the polishing of our venue to happen now, rather than over a period of years. We are enormously grateful to Paul Costello and all of the good people who have worked so hard to make the initiative possible. And of course to the taxpayers of Vermont who we feel a strong need to repay in terms of economic benefit and increased consumer demand in the furniture sector of our economy.
I’ll write more in the coming weeks about the Initiative and the other companies who also won awards. We are honored to be in such good company.
Do you love Vermont’s rural landscape as much as we do? Join the Working Lands Partnership, help keep Vermont green and be a part of it’s future!
June 10th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
The woods that surround Stonehurst make it a hotspot for local wildlife, and a favorite part of the new location for many of us. From wild turkeys roaming openly in the field, to our new porcupine friend, to the neighborhood chipmunks, squirrels, and birds that call this place their home—we are excited to be a part of this wonderful eco-community.
Now that we are getting settled, it’s great to see that many of us are forming a bond with different parts of Stonehurst. You can find Kendall walking around out back enjoying the mountain fresh air, Neville and Martin outside enjoying the scenery, while Dennis is always the first to volunteer to checkup on the families of birds who have occupied the birdhouses we put up earlier in the year. Needless to say, we all care about it here for one reason or another, and that’s what makes this place so special.
Stonehurst allows us to “tell the story of where your furniture comes from,” Peggy explains. “People can look out the windows and stroll around the grounds to see and experience what sustainable forestry is… we can use our learning wall to show people how their choice of furniture affects the habitats of endangered species.” For anyone who doesn’t know, Vermont Woods Studios was created with the inspiration to help put an end to the deforestation of the world’s rainforest’s. “Every species of big cat (lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc) and every species of primates (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc) is critically endangered due to habitat loss,” Peggy revealed, “and many of those habitats are forests that are being illegally decimated for timber that goes into imported furniture.”
Stonehurst, to us, is more than just our headquarters—it is a reflection of our impact on the natural landscape. We want to show people that by living consciously and shopping ethically, it is possible to live (and thrive) without harming the ecosystem, and that we can live harmoniously with our friends in nature, rather than endangering them by destroying their homes and habitats.
Besides the woods that surround Stonehurst, and the animals that inhabit them, the building itself has quite an interesting story. Stonehurst started out as a farmhouse circa 1800, and has “moved through various identities as a boarding house, 4 season resort, ski area, and residential home,” Peggy explains, “Stonehurst has been transformed several times, just as our business has transformed.” And despite all of the transformation, we’ve worked hard to preserve much of its history wherever possible. Plus, all local materials were used in its renovation, adding to its Vermont roots. “The resulting space feels like a natural home to us, said Peggy, “a place where we can enjoy our work while finding success in accomplishing our mission.”
When asked about their vision of the future for Vermont Woods Studios at Stonehurst, the team had differing answers with a common theme… We would all like to see Stonehurst busy as ever, with a thriving community of happy customers raving about their furniture and excited to be brand advocates for us and for our mission. We envision “people coming from near and far to get an up close look (and feel) at the best handcrafted furniture made in Vermont,” as Martin revealed, while Dennis would like to see people coming to Vermont not only to visit Stonehurst and see our furniture, but to experience all of the culture and activities that the state has to offer as well. Peggy is hoping to see a relaxed and efficient staff, excited to learn new things and making creative strides every day… plus lots more automation and continued rapid growth. Stonehurst will bring the team closer, and allow us to work more effectively and creatively together… and will also give us more opportunities to have fun! (Liz is really looking forward to future taco parties). Most importantly, however, Peggy explains that we “want to see evidence that we are raising awareness about where your furniture comes from.”
The move to Stonehurst has been a major transformation for us, and we are excited to see what the future has in store. With a handful of wonderful memories already created here– from happy hours in front of the wood stove in Ken’s shop, to physically helping with the planning and construction of the building, to watching a lone porcupine roam our field… we have high hopes and expectations for our future here. Our sign is finally up out front, signalling the end of the “making of” portion of our Stonehurst story–a chapter we are happy to leave behind. Now, its really time to get to work!
PS. We’ve created a Pinterest board for Stonehurst! Pin us
June 6th, 2013 by Kelsey Eaton
Summertime in Vermont is unlike anything else. I went to college here for 4 years before getting to enjoy a Vermont summer, and it certainly changed my perspective of this state. I’ve always known that Vermont was great for a variety of reasons: the sense of community, the foliage, the beer… but what I didn’t recognize before was the beautiful shift that happens when the weather transitions from the springtime rain (or snow) to the summertime sun. Anyone whose spent time here in the summer months knows what I’m talking about.
Vermont really comes alive in the summer. Besides the fact that you get to see your friends and neighbors that you might not have seen in a while (Vermonters are a lot like bears in that they love to hibernate through the colder months), you also get to do so many fun things that you can’t do here in the winter. You can even go outside without having to layer on your hat, boots, fuzzy mittens, parka, and snowsuit! ; )
‘Vermont Days’ is a reminder of just that. During ‘Vermont Days,’ which runs from June 8th to June 9th, Vermonters get to enjoy 2 days of free access to all of the things that make summers here so awesome: fishing, swimming, state parks, historical sites, and the VT history museum! You can’t really beat that.
For more information on Vermont Days 2013 (such as help finding a local fishing hot-spot, state park, or historical site near you) visit: www.vermontdays.com
Now gather your family or your friends, get moving, and get outside! : )
June 4th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Yesterday I traveled to the Paramount Theater in Rutland for Vermont’s First Economic Summit. Where else but Vermont could a small business owner like me elect to join the Governor, many of his Cabinet members and some of the most successful CEOs in the state to brainstorm about our economic future? New York? California? I don’t think so. Only in Vermont.
Anyway, about 125 people gathered to discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in America’s greenest state. On one hand our taxes are high, environmental regulations are onerous and the cost of living is barely affordable for most workers. But, somehow we love to live, work and play here anyway.
So we looked at why that is and listed a lot of benefits that Vermont has to offer: beautiful scenery, short pleasant commutes to work, relaxed pace, local economies, vibrant farmers markets and co-ops, fabulous farm to plate restaurants, skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, nice neighbors, working landscapes, clean lakes, rivers and streams, sustainable development and so on. Not to mention easy access to government officials!
Then the task was reconciling the pluses and minus’ of Vermont’s economics in terms of concrete fix-it strategies. We broke out into small groups to focus on: workforce development, the Vermont brand, Vermont infrastructure, Global competitiveness, Innovation and a few other topics. I was lucky to find myself working in the Vermont Brand group with Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association VWMA, Lynette Kemp of Vermont’s Department of Taxes (we tried not to hold that against her) and Colleeen Leonard, Vermont’s Working Lands Policy Administrator from the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
At the end of the day all of the small groups presented their ideas and recommendations to a plenary session and we discussed plans to follow through both formally and informally. Now our challenge is to make things happen in a way that preserves Vermont’s pristine rural character and brings economic prosperity to all it’s citizens. Think it’s doable?
You can read more about the Economic Summit on Vermont Digger.
May 26th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
This weekend we pause to honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy an American lifestyle of freedom and joy. Thought you might like to visit this Memorial Day Tribute. Kelly Strong’s poem, “Freedom Is Not Free” is provided along with lots of other poetry and information about our nations hero’s.
We hope everyone has good weather and a chance to get outside and enjoy family and friends this weekend. And we extend our sincere gratitude to all the men and women who are serving or have served in the military. You are our country’s true heros. For those serving far away from home, we pray for your safe and speedy return.
May 16th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
We’re always looking for an excuse to celebrate at Vermont Woods Studios and– lucky us– this week we had several good reasons. So last night we gathered at the Whetstone Brewery in Brattleboro to welcome Martin Corbin and Kelsey Eaton into the Woods and also… to observe American Craft Beer Week (yes, there is such such a thing).
I’ll post a couple short bios about Martin and Kelsey in the coming weeks but today I thought I should talk up Vermont’s fabulous craft beers so you’ll be able to get out and try them during Craft Beer Weekend.
According to the Vermont Brewers Association there are over 30 brewers in the Green Mountain State, from small specialty brewers like Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Warren,Vermont to nationally recognized brands like Long Trail in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. “Maybe there’s something in the water. Maybe there’s something in the air. Maybe….. there’s something up here in the mountains. Vermont’s brewers are making magic with it.”
Let us know what your favorite Vermont beer is in the comments section below or on our Facebook!
May 3rd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Foodies throughout Vermont are celebrating this weekend because Saturday is opening day for many of our farmers markets, including our favorite one– in Brattleboro. I tag along with Chef Annette who visits the market religiously every week to fill her fridge with fresh, organic fruits and veggies. I haven’t been cooking much lately so I just go for the freshly baked breads, local gourmet cheeses and… oh yes… lunch!
Lunch is the best part of Bratt’s Farmers Market. Take your pick: Indian, Malian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, wood-fired pizza– you name it. Wash it down with steamy country coffee or a glass of the world’s best freshly squeezed lemonade.
The Brattleboro Farmers Market is located on Rte 9 in West Brattleboro. It’s open rain or shine, every Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Farmers will have “springtime harvests of new maple syrup, fresh greens, herbs, rhubarb, eggs and meats, garden plants and flowers, plus well-stored apples, root crops, preserves and jams. Artisans and bakers offer sourdough breads, pastries and treats (many gluten-free choices), granola, fruit wines and sparkling juices, jewelry, pottery, fabric arts, and soaps.”
This Saturday on opening day, there will be music and Maypole dancing by Andy Davis. There’s something for everyone. Call 802-254-8885 for more information. Hope to see you there!
April 22nd, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
Greetings from Southern Vermont on Earth Day! We hope you’re celebrating — perhaps with some local organic food or by joining a community gardening project or cleaning up the roadside or whatever. Last year at Vermont Woods Studios we launched the Green Up Your Workplace Challenge where we used Facebook, our blog and some other physical and virtual venues to promote sustainability at work.
This year we’re swamped with our Stonehurst Fine Furniture Showroom project and haven’t had a chance to launch a 2013 Earth Day campaign. But in lieu of that, I can report that we’ve been very careful to use local lumber and building materials for Stonehurst and we’ve re-used, re-purposed and recycled as much of the original design and structure whenever possible. Stonehurst will truly be a green workplace.
We do have a couple modest Earth Day activities on tap today. We’ll be installing the bluebird nesting boxes we made last month out of a Norway Spruce tree that had to be taken down from Stonehurst in the Fall (because it was leaning on the top of the building). And we’ll be indulging in some local fare for lunch today… maybe from The Blue Moose Cafe or The Works in downtown Brattleboro. If you’re in the Southern Vermont area you know we’re lucky to have many fine farm to plate local eateries to choose from on Earth Day and every day. Maybe we’ll see you at one of them. Bon appetite and Happy Earth Day!