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Transcript: What’s the deal with intentional living communities in Vermont?

An episode transcript from Brave Little State. To access the episode feature, click here.

Note: Our show is produced for the ear. We recommend listening to the audio if you can! Also, transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers. They may contain errors, so please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. 

Coffee Haus

Mae Nagusky: This is Brave Little State. I’m Mae Nagusky. I’m sitting on a faded turquoise sofa in a living room filled with college kids. I’m visiting Slade, an off-campus house for University of Vermont students. Every other Thursday, it’s open mic night — or, as it’s known on campus, “Coffee Haus.”

I’m here as a reporter for Brave Little State. Though, this assignment is also kinda personal. I’m a junior at UVM. And this moment, crammed inside this funky little space — filled with colorful paintings, string lights, (and also someone’s curly hair taped to the wall) — this is a perfect snapshot of my three years of college. I’m surrounded by friends and strangers, all of us coming together for the sake of an unpredictable experience.

Slade is what’s known as an ecological co-op. It was founded on the principles of eating well, and living intentionally and sustainably. The students who live here buy, cook and eat local food. They eat dinner together five nights a week. They have Sunday meetings to divvy up groceries, and discuss community events, and each other's lives. They also have weekly chores such as cleaning the bathroom or common spaces — and they spin a wheel to decide who does what. And, of course, they also hold events, like Coffee Haus.

This is a story about community. Not the abstract idea of being in community, but intentional communities: Communes, co-ops, Ecovillages. And if your mind immediately goes to the peace and love hippies of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you’re not alone. We’ll get there. But we’re also talking about present-day Vermont communities whose members give up certain parts of “mainstream” life, and embrace living communally. Which, I’m not gonna lie, really appeals to me too.

Welcome to Brave Little State, a listener-powered journalism show from Vermont Public, and a proud member of the NPR Network. Here on the show we answer questions about Vermont that have been submitted and voted on by you, our audience. Thanks for being here.

Curious about community

Ella Wegman-Lawless is today's winning question-asker.

Mae Nagusky: What’s your dog's name?

Ella Wegman-Lawless:This is Willow. I will wait for the dog to pause for one moment.

Mae Nagusky: Ella was born in Marshfield, Vermont, raised in the Midwest and then moved back to Vermont in 2012. Now… she lives in Denmark. But no matter where she is, community has always meant a lot to her.

And her first introduction to communal living was right here in Vermont, at Bread and Puppet, the renowned political puppet theater. She spent the summer she turned 18 living at their farm in Glover. Later on, she lived at Heartbeet Lifesharing, an intentional community in Hardwick for adults with developmental disabilities. At one point, she even started her own community house in Burlington.

Ella Wegman-Lawless: I suppose I thought that out of X amount of places I lived in Vermont, you know, a high percentage of them could be considered communes or intentional living communities. And, you know, that's just me. But how much of that is, is the place? And how much of of Vermont as a place cultivates that I guess. 

Mae Nagusky: So, Ella submitted a question to our show. And lots of you voted for it.

Ella Wegman-Lawless: Does Vermont have a high number of communes, and if so, what is the deal?

The line is really gray and can be hard to define, between, you know, an intentional community, which often has in my head anyways, positive connotations and a commune which has negative connotations. 

Intentional communities, communes and co-ops … Oh my!

Mae Nagusky: Vermont has a long history as the home of communities that form to resist individualized, capitalist, mainstream culture. There was a radical vegetarian group in Guilford in the 1790s, often called the “Dorrellites.” You may have also heard of the Oneida Community, a religious commune that got its start in Putney before moving across the border to New York. And throughout the years, these radical, oppositional communities kept popping up; think of the Shakers or the Weston Priory, which is a community of Benedictine monks.

Amanda Gustin: This is a human impulse to gather together with other people to follow a certain way of life according to certain values and to share that closely and intensely with other people.

Mae Nagusky: This is Amanda Gustin. She works at the Vermont Historical Society. And she says the history of communal living in Vermont that you might be familiar with — hippies flocking here in the 1960s and ‘70s. Good karma, brown rice, sex, drugs, free love and rock 'n' roll — that’s not exactly what happened.

Amanda Gustin: I think a lot of people talk about the 1970s as ‘Oh, that was the moment when there was a quote, unquote, takeover. Vermont as a sort of hotbed of a kind of counterculture movement. It's, it's half perception half reality.

Mae Nagusky: The reality is that there was an influx of people moving to Vermont at that time.

Amanda Gustin: The 1960s and ‘70s also saw really the only population increase Vermont had seen in about 200 years.

Mae Nagusky: The misperception part is about why people were coming to Vermont. The common narrative is the back-to-the-land movement… People coming to places like Vermont in the hope of living more closely with nature. People like Jean Lathrop who was featured in a 1980s radio special from the Vermont Historical Society:

Jean Lathrop: I think I believed and I still believe that my life would have more meaning if I'm part of some larger effort than my own individual efforts to go through life.

Mae Nagusky: But Amanda says another reason for the population increase was simply because this was the era of the baby boomers. Also, IBM, the massive tech corporation, set up shop in Vermont in 1957.

Amanda Gustin: The large majority was people just moving to Vermont, not necessarily in any kind of connection with counterculture, right, your average person was moving to Vermont in the 1960s. Not to live in a commune, but to work at IBM.

Mae Nagusky: Amanda says the narrative about Vermont being a hotbed for communal living… it really took hold in the aftermath of some high profile media coverage. Like an article in Playboy magazine, in 1972. The headline was, "Taking over Vermont." And it was all about how hippies could move to Vermont and change the state politics.

Amanda Gustin: I think often like you ask people, ‘Oh, like, it just was a weird thing that happened the ‘60s and ‘70s. And then everything changed.’ No. History is never that simple. It would be boring if it was that simple. It's much more complicated… proportionately maybe more people coming to Vermont and doing this than in other places. Statistically significant in proportion, like a huge outlier, probably not. And it's hard to say definitively. A lot of things about it. Some of that is intentional, like some of these people didn't want to get recorded by mainstream history. So they knew they weren't.

Mae Nagusky: Maybe you’ve heard of Total Loss Farm in Guilford or Quarry Hill in Rochester; these were communes with roots in the 1960s and ‘70s. They’re still around, but they’re not the same. And they no longer qualify as “communes” by most definitions. It turns out, they’re just tough to sustain over time.

Veranda Porche: One by one, people decided that being here and creating a close knit community that was basically the inner focus of everybody's lives, was no longer the most pressing way.

Mae Nagusky: That was Verandah Porche, one of the co-founders of Total Loss Farm in Guilford. She was featured in the 1980s radio special from the Vermont Historical Society. And thanks to the counterculture movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, there are all kinds of stereotypes out there about what a commune is— hippies, anarchists, peace, love and nature. And there’s definitely some of that out there. But what actually makes a commune a commune is… money.

Cynthia Tina: When you join the community, you join one of the community’s businesses — hammock-making, tofu — and your outside assets are frozen when you join. You're really just, you know, sharing everything with the other residents. And that's what is taking care of you. 

Mae Nagusky: This is Cynthia Tina

Cynthia Tina: So my name is Cynthia. And my last name is Tina, which is two first names. 

Mae Nagusky: She’s spent the past 10 years of her life learning about intentional communities across the world. The first one she visited was back when she was 15.

Cynthia Tina: It gave me exposure to a radical different way of living. And that set me off on a journey where I've now visited like 135 different intentional communities, Ecovillages, cohousing's around the world.

Mae Nagusky: There are many different terms that describe different kinds of communal living arrangements. "Intentional living community" is the broadest one. It's an umbrella term that describes a group of people who live together, or live near one another. And they regularly share resources based on a set of common values, like love of the earth or compassion for those around us. “Communes” are a particular type of intentional living community. And Cynthia says they’re not very popular these days.

Cynthia Tina: So the number of communities that are that economic model is actually a really small number. 10%, I've heard, of the intentional communities movement, I think it's even less. Maybe that I'm aware of, maybe 20 to 30 in the United States.

Mae Nagusky: At the peak of communes in the 60s and 70s, Amanda from the Vermont Historical Society estimates there were anywhere from 50 to 120 located in Vermont. Some barely made it a few weeks. Others a few years. A couple persisted for decades. Overall, though, the data is a little murky.

Amanda Gustin: One of the tricky parts of studying this is that they're, in as much as they are communal living our collective living situations, they're different from each other. And that's the idea right, the people who live there choose choose their way of life and how they follow that. So. So counting is difficult.

Mae Nagusky: So, the answer to Ella’s first question — Does Vermont have a high number of communes? — well, as far as we can tell… no!

But that doesn’t mean that intentional living writ large has disappeared. The communities in Vermont today just organize themselves differently.

According to Cynthia, there are at least five ecovillages in Vermont, AKA intentional communities with an ecological focus, such as growing their own food, sustainable building design or renewable energy. For instance, Cynthia lives in a community in Cabot where they all build their own homes.

Cynthia Tina: This is the balcony. I'm imagining eventually having like a slide coming off it.

Mae Nagusky: Genuinely?

Cynthia Tina: Yeah, I think that'd be fun. 

Mae Nagusky: There are also at least 10 cohousing communities, where residents own private homes, but share certain resources and facilities, like chickens or a lawnmower or a common room.

There are also at least 20 housing coops, some of which are resident-owned mobile home parks. It’s a similar model to a grocery co-op, where members have ownership in the business. In this case, though, it's also their home.

And, finally, Cynthia says there are at least 20 intentional communities that are still developing. All in all, about 50 to 60 documented communities that fall under the “intentional living” umbrella. Plus countless other more informal homesteads, collectives, villages, and farms that may or may not qualify.

Each of these Vermont communities may also check more than one box. For example, Cynthia’s community in Cabot is called “Headwaters Garden & Learning Center;” it’s both an Ecovillage and a cohousing community.

We check out the gardens and the orchard, the pond, the sauna, the bonfire pit. The chickens and the goats. All of which are shared resources.

Cynthia Tina: So again, all of these extra benefits and resources and spaces that I wouldn't necessarily have if I was living alone. But because I'm in a community, there's just access to so much more.

Community matchmaker

Mae Nagusky: Cynthia is so passionate about this kind of lifestyle that she made a job out of it. She’s a community matchmaker — which means she travels all around the world to help her clients find intentional communities that are the best fit for them.

Cynthia Tina: Okay, so I often start by asking, why would Brave Little State want to live in a community?

Mae Nagusky: I’m curious about her process, so I ask her to pretend that Brave Little State is her newest client.

Cynthia Tina: Can we talk about your budget? You could afford to, would you be buying a home within a community? Would you be on a more rental basis?

Mae Nagusky: You know, I'm gonna go big here and say we would buy. 

Cynthia Tina: Yeah. Nice. Cool. 

Mae Nagusky: Cynthia is a true professional. And after a series of questions about Brave Little State’s situation, as well as our hopes and desires, Cynthia has a match for us.

Cynthia Tina: I think perhaps a cohousing community. I am thinking Bristol Cohousing, they are an amazing community right within the village of Bristol. 

Mae Nagusky: The Brave Little State team is not exactly in a position to uproot, and move to an intentional community right now. And neither are a lot of people; it’s a big switch.

Cynthia Tina: So I've worked with, oh, close to 300 clients. However, it's a much smaller number who actually go through all the steps to ultimately be in a community. Most people though, are just what we call “community curious.”

Mae Nagusky: But Vermont is still home to dozens and dozens of these communities. And lots of people do take the plunge into this alternative way of life.

Brianna Arnold: I mean, it feels scary. It feels edgy. It feels like, Oh, is it just gonna be so hard the whole time, but that's what a lot of people are living with right now.  We can bring healing together, and it can be slow, that's okay. 

Finding community after incarceration

Mae Nagusky: I’m visiting the Dismas House in Burlington. The Dismas House is a home where formerly incarcerated folks can live. During the day, they go to work or school independently. At other times, they do stuff together: Attend 12-step meetings, study, do household chores or relax.

This is a unique intentional community because it’s setting them up to leave. The goal of those who live there is to become more prepared to transition back into society. There are five total Dismas houses in Vermont, and there are other Dismas models around the country and the world.

Of all the Vermont Dismas Houses, this one has been around the longest: 36 years.

In the evenings, Burlington Dismas House has group dinners with staff and volunteer cooks from the broader community.

I join one of their house dinners to learn more. Matthew Ballas, one of the longest-tenured residents, kicks things off.

Matthew Ballas: Thanks everyone for being here. Means wants me to have this many people's most people I've ever seen in this house before. So yeah, it's great to have everyone and I'm interested in getting to know all of you… 

Mae Nagusky: There are 14 of us sitting around a table laid out with iced tea, lemonade, bread, butter and soup.

Speaker: Oh that soup is good… yeah it looks like veggie…

Mae Nagusky: We talk about hot sauce…

Speaker: Tabasco thank you … 

Mae Nagusky: And I learn more about life in the Dismas community. Which seems to include a lot of movie nights.

Mae Nagusky: What is your favorite movie you watch together?

Speakers: Step Brothers, Black Adam, Shawshank Redemption.

Mae Nagusky: The seven or so men who live here also do group bonding activities like putt putt golf or camping. Led by house director, Kim Parsons.

Kim Parsons: Not everybody I've learned is thrilled with camping.

Mae Nagusky: Quickly, the dinner conversation turns to the deeper stuff that a community like Dismas offers to residents.

Matthew Ballas: I think everyone pretty much has like the same common goal. 

Mae Nagusky: This is Matthew again.

Matthew Ballas: And that's kind of just, you know, it's like the next step in your life and just be where you like, be like in the position that you were maybe like, before you went to jail… immediately before I went to jail, I wasn't in such a good place. But before that, I was in a really good place and then everything got screwed up. My goal is to put myself to where I was before. 

Mae Nagusky: Some men live in the Dismas House out of necessity. They’re not mandated to be there, but some of them don’t have many options. Matthew, for example, went to prison for just three months. But he says he needed Dismas to get to a better place mentally.

Matthew Ballas: I didn't want to come here and that's true. I was like, why would I want to come to a house and live with people? Like the same type of people I was living with, in jail. While I didn't want to do that, but, you know, it proved me wrong, because I'm still here. And I My intention was to come here and leave immediately. And I've been here for going on two years.

Mae Nagusky: What's kept you staying here for two years?

Matthew Ballas: We all know the answer is the only woman I ever loved.

Mae Nagusky: Matthew’s referring to the house director, Kim – who seems to be like a mother-figure to him.

Matthew Ballas: I just give like, like my deepest gratitude to Kim. I think I owe her a lot.

Kim Parsons: We really hope that Dismas takes the structure, it's not your family, it's different than family. But still, there are some things, there's some structures to family that are really good and solid, you know, just communicating and coming together and sort of sharing, you know, when there is we, you know, we do have struggles in here when someone relapses or things are going on. And, you know, we talk about those things and the way we deal with are together.

Abdulkadir Kalmoi: When I walked in here, the minute I did, I felt the same way. I felt like very warm, like, the house is very welcoming everybody nice…  

Mae Nagusky: This is resident Abdulkadir Kalmoi. He shares with me that before he went to jail, he wasn’t a very good father or person, but that he’s working every day to be better. He’s been at the Burlington Dismas house for four months. And he says it’s helping him achieve his high school diploma.

Abdulkadir Kalmoi: We can go after each other and ask each other questions. advices or what we could do or how we can help each other out. And, you know, I cannot get into support from anywhere else. And I really appreciate it. Yeah. I can't thank them enough. So yeah, appreciate all you guys. 

James Brown: We appreciate you. 

Mae Nagusky:  At one point during dinner, Matthew starts to cry and Abdulkadir hands over his napkin with a sweet smile on his face. This moment really stayed with me. There’s something about adult men showing raw emotions and helping each other through it all that is so beautiful and rare.

Emily Copeland: A family unit is one of those communities where you lean on each other to get those resources. And those resources could be material, that can be money, or rent or food, they could also be like, love and acceptance and grace. And, like, I don't know, the benefit of the doubt.

Mae Nagusky: This is Emily Copeland, one of the volunteer cooks who has been coming here for years.

Emily Copeland: Cause people don’t get it, and they’ll be like ‘oh that’s so nice of you.’ and I’m like — 'oh you don’t get it like it’s amazing and somebody does my dishes and hands them to me and then I get to see people out on the town' like if you don't come here around this table you don't get it, you don't understand.

Abdulkadir Kalmoi: That’s true. This table is where all the magic happens. 

Why Vermont?

Mae Nagusky: From Dismas and Slade to the dozens of other intentional communities based in the state… they didn’t end up in Vermont by accident. People chose to be here for a reason.

Brianna Arnold: Vermont's a really connected place. People are here a lot of the time because we want to be connected with earth and land, live close to nature. 

Mae Nagusky: This is Brianna Arnold. She’s been living in a community in Underhill for the past year. And I wanted to get her take on Ella’s winning question: Why do so many of these types of communities seem to pop up in Vermont specifically?

Brianna Arnold: Why are there intentional communities in Vermont – because we have winter, like, you want to have winter alone, you want to cut all your wood alone and burn it alone. I think the cold really brings us together in ways that we like can't even resist. It's so much work to provide for yourself, especially when there's seasons because you can't just go out and eat blueberries off a bush.

Eve Fischer: Like, there's a lot more kind of open mindedness. And I don't know how to describe the hippie-nes of it, but it's like Ben and Jerry, you know… 

Mae Nagusky: This is Eve Fischer. She is working on starting her own Ecovillage — which will also be a sort of spiritual retreat — in the Northeast Kingdom. And she pointed out another reason Vermont is an appealing place for these types of communities. A more practical reason.

Eve Fischer: When I first started looking to get land to create, I knew it had to be the northeast, because my vision isn't just for myself. It's for the next generation. And the next one next, you know, like, I'm looking ahead, and I'm looking at global warming, frankly. And I thought it has to be somewhere where there's always going to be water, and it's always going to be cool enough, you know, for people to live. 

Mae Nagusky: This idea of thinking and working collectively either for future generations or for each other is something that stuck with me during my reporting. It’s not just about finding a climate resilient location. It’s also about the relationship people who live in intentional communities have with the land around them.

John Hunt: It's our home. It's our substance. Like, it's our it's our bodies. It's what our bodies are formed from. Your ancestors are buried in the Land, and the soil is actually made up of your family. 

Mae Nagusky: This is John Hunt. He is a member of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, a state-recognized tribe. And one of the co-founders of an intentional community in Chittenden County.

John Hunt: When you see the land is your homeland. And you're not in you're not thinking about going away, you can't really make a choice to pollute a place and think like, wow, well, we'll just move on to a new place when it's when it's your home, you want to take care of it. Like if you have a fiddlehead patch, you can't over harvest that patch. And if you do, you'll see the results, or your children will see the results. So you have to be in a caretaking relationship.

A sacred circle

Mae Nagusky: The emphasis on the natural world is more explicit in some communities than others. During my reporting, I went to an “eco-community festival” in Underhill. Basically, it was a community building event that included a potluck and a dance party and some discussion.

As soon as I get out of my car, a man with a big beard walks my way; he’s just tried out the sauna down by the river. Once I walk into a building called “the Barn,” I see middle-aged people with their shoes off giving each other long, two-armed hugs.

I feel kind of like an imposter here. Like all of these people already know one another from past bonfires or meditation retreats. It turns out the latter is actually quite accurate.

Soon enough, we’re all called to join a circle. I wasn’t able to record because they said it was sacred. But, just imagine: 35 of us sitting on cushions facing an altar with sweetgrass and an oil blend and objects pointed north, south, east and west. All of a sudden, someone starts singing a song I’ve never heard before. It feels like everyone in the circle knows the words. And I feel the urge to pretend like I’m singing along, even though I’m not really saying anything. Kinda like I did growing up, during services at my local synagogue.

And then, the talking starts. We’re supposed to loosely share our names or things we’re passionate about or what we’re working on or just generally how we are doing. Whatever someone wants to say, the space is there. We pass around a heavy wooden pinecone. Only the person holding the pinecone is allowed to speak.

A few people break down crying during their turn.

Someone mentions being a retired contractor, and why he views his old way of life as toxic and harmful. Many people mention Hempcrete — a hemp-based building material — and how important the human mycelium network is. Someone says, quote, “I wish instead of having a Dollar General for every town, there was an intentional community for every town.” Folks emphasize the importance of raising kids in these types of communities.

Brianna Arnold: And I wonder, you know, how much of how we are is because we weren't seen as like all of our fullness as children. 

Mae Nagusky: This is Brianna Arnold again. We were in the sacred circle together, and we caught up a few hours later, after the festival transitioned to a dance party slash jam session. She says it's been easier to be herself since joining an intentional community. Which is at odds with her experience in mainstream society, where everything is so individualized.

Brianna Arnold: I feel like we break everything up. We have like specialized teachers, and a therapist and a friend and someone you jam with and they're all like separate beings and separate places and aren't all in the same room. Let alone the same, like, person. Not that one person can be everything but special to relate with people in a lot of overlapping ways.

Mae Nagusky: People I spoke to during my reporting shared a lot of different reasons for joining an intentional community: to help re-enter society, or to escape traditional confines, or to re-define what society even means. And that pursuit of a more fulfilling life and community is deeply connected to a journey of self-healing, which so often goes back to childhood stuff. We often seek out the life that we wish we could have had as a child, or we try to build it for our own children.

But there are also people who choose to leave intentional communities… and they often do so just as, well, intentionally as when they joined.

To intentional living and back again

Anthony Resnick: If I'm here, and these intentional communities, for a lot of people, it's way too outside of their box where they can't even relate to me, you know, or they're not, I'm not accessible to them. 

Mae Nagusky: This is Anthony Resnick; we met at the sacred circle during the eco-festival. He was sitting two cushions over from me on his knees. I couldn’t help but notice his perfect posture. He had a big smile and maintained deep eye contact.

Anthony is headed back to mainstream living, most likely to Florida. He feels ready to reconnect with the life he left behind. As he tells it, he used to be pretty “successful” in the mainstream sense.

Anthony Resnick: I had my own house, nice car, I had a great career, plenty of money, and all that good stuff. And at the same time, there was also a huge emptiness inside of me. I just got tired of feeling like a rat spinning in a wheel in the same circles over and over again.

Mae Nagusky:  So… he let all of it go. And for the past 7 years, he’s been living in intentional communities around the world, including most recently, here in Vermont.

Anthony Resnick: My intention was to heal myself, heal my family and to heal the world.

Mae Nagusky: But Anthony also told me his experience in intentional communities wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Anthony Resnick: One of the things that also brought me into intentional community as well was a lot of judgment towards society and how evil the world is, and money's evil. And I think that you can go from the place of being totally immersed in it without questioning it. And then there's the other extreme of it's all evil, and I need to push it all the way and I need to live totally outside of it. And I'm at a place in my journey where I'm just totally at peace with all of it that I can see that everything has some good in it and everything has some not good in it.  

“The rock grinder”

Anthony Resnick: Intentional community, it's like a pressure cooker. Which means we all have stuff that's inside of us laying dormant. And if you live in a really intimate space, it's going to stir all of that stuff up.

Mae Nagusky: This is an idea that a lot of people mentioned. How it can be really hard to live in this way. Here’s Brianna Arnold.

Brianna Arnold: It feels scary. It feels edgy. We need to really lean on each other in order to be at these edges, and face these hard things and be like, okay, we can bring healing together and it can be slow, that's okay. 

Sam Bliss: An enormous majority of intentional communities fail in the first few years.

Mae Nagusky: This is Sam Bliss. He grew up in a nuclear family and then lived with 9 others in California out of necessity and decided he loved it so much that he would never turn back. So he co-created an intentional living community in Burlington with, among others, our question-asker Ella Wegman-Lawless.

Sam Bliss: And its because a group of adults who like grew up in nuclear families in a society that doesn't prioritize sharing or collective decision making without leaders are trying to do something that they haven't been trained to do, and there's not great models for and it's extremely difficult.

Cynthia Tina: We’re all figuring it out. This is a big experiment. This is all about co-creation and when you join a community, it's not like the problems in the wider world go away. These are really microcosms for all the things that are happening in wider society; those things show up in community too.

Mae Nagusky: This is Cynthia Tina again, the community matchmaker with two first names.

Cynthia Tina: In community, it's like living in a rock grinder. So you're the rock bouncing around off of these other rocks, here, it's being cranked and the rocks are bouncing and getting smoother and shinier, and more polished. And we need that we need not only the online social media connection, like we need to be able to see our neighbors and know who's across the street from us. And if I have a bad day, I go and knock on my neighbor's door and share what's up. 

Mae Nagusky: I didn’t think much about community when I was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. And then I came to Vermont for college a few years ago and I met my friend Sam. And she silently instilled these weird, awesome values in me, like group hugs, barefoot walking and eating the heel piece of a loaf of bread.

Sam lives in Slade, the student co-op I mentioned at the very beginning of the episode. The one that hosts Coffee Haus. And because of her, I decided to live in Slade next year. I can’t wait to do more cooking, and to build a funky, beautiful community with people I didn’t know before. To be seen and to see others. To have more group cuddles and tandem bike rides.

So, yeah. I signed up for the rock grinder. What’s the worst that can happen?


Josh Crane: Thanks so much for listening to the show. And thanks to Ella Wegman-Lawless for the great question.

To see photos from Mae’s reporting, check out our website: While you’re there you can submit your own question about Vermont, sign up for the BLS newsletter and vote on the question you want us to tackle next. We’re on Instagram and reddit @bravestatevt.

Mae Nagusky reported this episode, and did the mix and sound design. I produced it, with help from the rest of the Brave Little State team: Myra Flynn and Angela Evancie. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music; other music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Special thanks to Lexi Krupp, Eric George, Marlie and Julia Hunt, Hannah Braun, Colin Bradley, Sara Peterson, Colton Francis, Luigi Morelli and the Hungerfort community house.

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Corrected: May 3, 2023 at 9:25 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story inaccurately said the Cobb Hill community in Hartland has roots in the '60s and '70s. Cobb Hill was founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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