Recently, at a school farm meeting, the term “sense of place” came up a few times. It was not the first time that I had heard this term, but a question echoed in my head. What does it mean for someone to have a sense of place?
Without acknowledging it, I had spent the previous six weeks exploring my sense of belonging, as a participant in Shelburne Farms’ Land Acknowledgment series. I have spent time connecting more deeply with this land called the Champlain Valley, located between Lake Champlain (known to the Abenaki as Bitawbagw, or the lake between) and the green mountains (Askaskwiwajoak).
In addition to the breathtaking geological history of our region (a white beluga whale skeleton was found in Charlotte in 1849! The original Adirondacks were higher than the Himalayas!), I spent time trying to understand the people who were, and continue to be, keepers here. The Abenakis, specifically the Winooski band in the northern Champlain Valley, and the Mohicans, in the southern Champlain Valley.
I write these words to the place I call home, Brandon, which was once called Neshobe, or “full of water”. The Abenakis did not cede this land of milk and honey, and many of the names in use today still reflect their sense of place, with the very word Winooski (winokitegw) referring to the flowing river where wild onions (ramps) abounded each spring. The Abenakis’ sense of belonging was, and continues to be, essential to their survival. Isn’t it the same for the rest of us?
As we move forward into what some call “the new normal”, I emerge with a new perspective of my sense of belonging. I was recently interviewed by VPR’s Brave Little State for a lighthearted chat about whether or not Vermont is a good place to weather an apocalypse. Spoiler alert: most people said yes. I tend to agree, as I’ve seen through ACORN Farmacy: Food is Medicine program and the publication of this very Guidethrough the From farm to school network and the Farm Tower, how much our community as a whole cares. Cares about this land, each other and their sense of belonging.
Hypothetical apocalypse aside, ACORN’s emerging work on a food center the space in Addison County excites me. We are building a physical manifestation of what that sense of place looks like for our local food system: its growers and producers, its eaters, and the land from which the food is grown.
The cover also reflects this feeling of belonging. Camel hump (Tawapodiiwajoor place to sit on a mountain), testifies to the dedication of a young farmer to her task at hand, tending the soil to feed herself, her family and her community.
Please use this guide as a resource to develop your own sense of belonging. Connect with some of the 257 growers and farmers in the Champlain Valley who are dedicated to feeding our community and protecting this land.
As you’ll read on the following pages, you can support local food producers by shopping at farm stands and local grocers, and by visiting restaurants that source locally. And, of course, we cannot talk about food and agriculture without also mentioning their effects on the climate. You will learn about clean water initiatives and regenerative culture practices in the region. Learn more about the emergence of ACORN online wholesale market as well as our appreciation for a few farmers we lost last year.
Stay connected to ACORN by signing up to our monthly newsletter at www.acornvt.org, and downloading the Eat Local VT App on your phone.
Whether you live here or are just passing through, please take a moment to give thanks to the land on which you are reading this guide.
Lindsey Berk, Executive Director, ACORN
Read the complete 2022 local food and farm guide here.