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Slow Living Celebrated In Brattleboro

Susan Keese

Brattleboro’s third annual Slow Living Summit is part of a celebration of local agriculture that culminates in the Strolling of the Heifers festival on Saturday.

The Strolling of the Heifers began as a way to draw attention to the role of local farms in preserving Vermont’s landscape and communities.

Orly Munzing, the event’s founder, thinks of Saturday’s parade of flower-bedecked cows as the light side of a big issue. She says the summit tackles strategies for keeping community values that nurture family farms alive in a world that’s headed another way.

Munzing says more than 300 people from around the country signed up in advance for the series of panels and events.

“People are really tired of the fast lane, where you’re just racing constantly,” Munzing says. “You live in fear. You live in fear of not having enough, you live in fear of not being satisfied enough. But when you live in the slow lane you don’t have that fear….”

Munzing says living at a slower pace allows time to pay attention to the things that bring satisfaction.

Martin Langeveld, the summit coordinator, says the problem is deeply entrenched. He says governments and other powerful entities see productivity, growth and profits as the only credible measures of success.

Langeveld says the summit’s seventy-five presenters are all working to change the paradigm -- through local food production, alternative finance and business models, architecture and design, community organizing and personal transformation.

“They’re people who understand that gross domestic product is not the be-all, end-all of a society,” Langeveld says, “And that how happy people are, and how respectful we are of nature and of resources and each other, that those are all the things that really matter and the things that will ultimately solve the problems that we have, whether it’s global warming or just about anything else.”

At the opening session Wednesday evening, summit participants sampled Vermont foods and shared their stories.

Twenty-six year old Noelle Dorr is from New York City. She asserts unapologetically that she’s a slow mover and thinker.

“So to find that there’s a whole movement about going slower and not living in the fast lane, kind of against what’s going on in the mainstream,” Dorr  says… “That intrigues me.”

Dorr works at an after-school center, where even the kids are on the fast track.

She shrugs. “I feel, like, what are we teaching them by rushing them from place to place? It’s just rush-rush-rush, all the time.” Dorr laughs. “Why? I don’t know.”

Ed Klugman, a retired educator from Boston, has intergenerational concerns. He says children today rarely get to interact with elders.

“Because parents are so busy!” Klugman says.

Langeveld, the summit coordinator, says change  will have to come from grass roots gatherings like this one. He doesn’t expect Congress to decide to slow down and think about gross national happiness any time soon.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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