October 8th, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater has been nourishing the soul with quality entertainment since it officially opened its doors in July. The historic venue will take on the added role of nourishing the body beginning on Nov. 1, when it hosts the first in a series of Saturday “winter markets” that are slated to stretch until next spring.
The “Middlebury Winter Markets” are being spearheaded by the Addison County Localvores. Bay Hammond, a member of the localvores group, explained that Middlebury resident Kate Gridley informally floated the idea last year.
“She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have access to local goods and foods throughout the year?’” Hammond recalled.
Others took a shining to the concept, to the extent that the localvores — affiliated with the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACoRN) — decided to explore the feasibility of a winter market. Hammond explained that the market could logically become an extension of the Middlebury Farmers’ Market, though that organization has been very busy with its summer/fall offerings each Wednesday and Saturday in the Marble Works.
“Our main goal was to just get (a winter market) up and started,” Hammond said of the localvores’ role this year. “It seemed like the time was right. There are a lot of winter markets popping up all over the state.”
Localvores found willing partners in the THT and its executive director, Douglas Anderson.
“(Anderson) loved the idea,” Hammond said. “We have been working hard to set up dates.”
Organizers believe the THT space will accommodate around 18 vendors, who are likely to sell types of produce with a longer shelf-life (potatoes, garlic, various herbs), as well as frozen meats, baked goods, prepared foods, breads and crafts.
By JOHN FLOWERS
BRIDPORT — Jill Vickers’ recollections of Afghanistan had been of a proud, resourceful population working hard to get by in a foreboding yet majestic setting.
But Vickers’ vivid memories, culled from a stint as a Peace Corps worker in Afghanistan from 1969-1971, had become clouded this decade — not as much from the passage of time as by TV footage of bombings and some media portrayals of Afghans as terrorists.
“Afghanistan is a place where terrorists live and thrive? This was not our experience,” Vickers said of her and her colleagues’ recollections of Afghanistan, where they had scoured the countryside inoculating people in small towns against smallpox.
The Bridport resident and her 16 fellow Peace Corps associates are now sharing memories of their experiences in a new documentary film titled “Once in Afghanistan.” The recently completed 70-minute film was produced by Vickers and Jody Bergedick, the youth program coordinator for Middlebury Community Television (MCTV).
Set for its premier at Castleton State College’s Casella Theater on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 3:30 and 7 p.m., “Once in Afghanistan” features heartfelt and poignant interviews with the 17 Peace Corps volunteers who are now spread throughout the country.
The film, which Vickers expects to air on MCTV at a later date and will be available on DVD, includes still photos of the vaccinators and 1960s-era footage of Afghanistan supplied by Middlebury resident Foster McEdward.
Vickers unwittingly planted the seeds for “Once in Afghanistan” in 2004, during a reunion with her former Peace Corps colleagues. Wanting a keepsake of the gathering, Vickers interviewed the women. She brought the footage back to Addison County and eventually into the MCTV studios. There, with Bergedick’s help, she condensed the material into a seven-minute segment.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Construction crews last week were replacing ties and unloading new rail along sections of the railroad tracks stretching from Middlebury to Salisbury and from Proctor to Florence.
Meanwhile, rail officials last week also confirmed a “minor” derailment of a fuel car on tracks near the Woodbridge Condominiums on Sept. 5. David Wulfson, president of Vermont Rail, said the incident involved one car.
One set of wheels jumped the tracks, according to Richard Hosking, rail project manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans).
“It was put back on (the tracks), and that was it,” Wulfson said. “Those things happen all the time.”
Fortunately, the incident did not nearly rise to the level of the multi-car derailment that occurred almost exactly a year ago on tracks near Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury. Fourteen fuel-laden cars and three carrying rock salt tipped over during that Oct. 22, 2007, incident.
Hosking said the Sept. 5 incident was small enough that it did not warrant notification of local emergency response teams.
“It wasn’t due to track conditions,” Hosking added. “It was like blowing a tire on a car.”
Still, some Middlebury residents living in homes near the tracks said they get little comfort from the term “minor” being used in the same sentence with “derailment.”
Fred Barnes, a resident of the Woodbridge Condominiums, said he went to the scene of the Sept. 5 derailment when workers were jacking the car back onto the tracks at 3 a.m.
“We are told this is not dangerous,” Barnes said. “But whenever we go a step closer to the tanker falling over and spilling gasoline, we are increasing the probability of disaster.
ADDISON COUNTY — FairPoint Communications plans to bring full broadband Internet coverage to Middlebury, Salisbury and Vergennes by the end of 2010, marking the complete coverage of high-speed Internet access for all of Addison County.
The other two telephone and Internet service providers in the county — Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom, which serves towns in the northern and eastern part of Addison County, and Shoreham Telephone, which serves towns in the southwest quadrant of the county — have already established full broadband access for their service areas.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Developers of a proposed small-scale hydro operation at the Otter Creek Falls in Middlebury recently filed the requisite state and federal permit applications for their project, and have shifted their focus back to becoming a wholesale producer of electricity rather than an exclusive provider of power to portion of the town and Middlebury College.
Anders Holm, whose family is spearheading the project, said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is reviewing a preliminary application for the project, while the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) is determining whether the plan can receive a water quality permit.
“Our preliminary FERC application has been accepted. That’s in, and we’re getting as much information as we can about the specifics of the site at this time, still looking at how much power it’s going to make,” Holm said on Thursday. “The preliminary application is just letting FERC know that there is ongoing interest in the site and we are doing some of the preliminary steps and they can expect more information from us in the future.”
The plan includes a water turbine that would harness electricity from the creek as it flows through a flume under a building (owned by the Holms) that borders the south side of the Otter Creek Falls. The project also includes a powerhouse, a penstock of approximately 120 feet long by 7.5-feet in circumference, and a transmission line of around 500 feet.
In an effort to expedite the ANR’s review of the project, Holm has asked the agency to review a previous, more ambitious hydropower project application that had been submitted by central Vermont Public Service Corp. (CVPS) for the same site around 20 years ago. The project was never implemented.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
ADDISON COUNTY — Local dairy farmers could soon be producing milk at a loss, with high production costs — driven by expensive fuel, feed and fertilizer — and falling milk prices pushing many farmers toward tighter, and in some cases negative, profit margins.
With milk prices hovering around $16 or $17 per hundredweight for most farmers, according to President of the Addison County Farm Bureau Bill Scott, even the best managers are going to have trouble making ends meet.
“Farmers tend to be an optimistic group,” Scott said. “I think they love what they’re doing, and they’ll keep sharpening their pencil to find ways to save money.”
That said, Scott predicted that falling revenues and skyrocketing expenses — he pointed to fuel and fertilizer prices that have doubled in the last year — will mean that the county could see the “marginal” farms go under.
The latest drop in milk prices comes after a spike that occurred a little over a year ago, explained Glenn Rogers, a farm business management specialist with the University of Vermont Extension in St. Albans. Prices stayed high through the spring and early summer — with a July blend price of $20.61 per hundredweight for milk, according to figures from the AgriMark dairy cooperative — but are tapering off now.
Rogers said he anticipates that milk prices will continue to “drift downward” and stay low over the next six months, and AgriMark projections for this winter show blend prices around $17.50 per hundredweight. Individual farmers could receive anywhere between roughly $14 and $20 per hundredweight of their milk, depending on the quality of their product.
AgriMark’s prices reflect the price paid for milk in Boston. Vermont farmers can expect to see slightly lower rates than AgriMark’s figures because of additional transportation costs.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Police Department will assign one of its officers to East Middlebury in the wake of a recent convenience store robbery that has sparked concerns about public safety in that neighborhood.
Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley stressed that the officer will not be solely dedicated to East Middlebury, but would rather act as a liaison, or familiar face, to work with the community in addressing public safety concerns.
Those concerns are particularly high right now, in the aftermath of the Sept. 16 armed robbery of Mac’s Convenience Store. The masked culprit made off with a few hundred dollars and has yet to be caught.
Some members of East Middlebury’s Neighborhood Watch group attended Tuesday’s Middlebury selectboard meeting to voice their concerns. Those concerns were somewhat defused by the announcement that new Middlebury police officer Russell O’Dell would be assigned as the liaison to East Middlebury. He is expected to be on the job, full time, by early November.
“The reason I came here, before I talked to Chief Hanley, was to plead and beg for an officer,” East Middlebury Neighborhood Watch member Katherine Windham told selectmen. “But now we have one. We are so pleased with that, and we will go forward with the crime watch.”
Windham said the group will soon send out a letter to fellow residents informing them “we are stepping up the program.” Moreover, the group will host a community meeting on Monday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Methodist Church in East Middlebury, to learn more from police on how the neighborhood can better protect itself.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
NEW HAVEN — For a few days this fall, at least, the Beeman Elementary School gymnasium is home not to bouncing basketballs and flying jump ropes but instead the smells of sizzling onions and the happy chatter of young gourmets-in-training.
In a project headed up by Beeman health and physical education teacher Patty Whittemore, all of the New Haven elementary school’s 162 students have taken to the kitchen, spending a few hours every week whipping up chowders and zucchini pizzas and fresh pesto.
The cooking project, which will culminate in a harvest dinner for families at Beeman’s open house on next Wednesday, is part of a “place-based” learning approach that the school is integrating into its classrooms. The place-based philosophy promotes integrating communities into the classroom — which, in Beeman’s case, means putting down roots in its own backyard garden and reaching out to neighbors to celebrate New Haven’s local produce.
“It’s kind of a cool, community thing,” said Whittemore, The project emphasizes cooperative learning, service to the community and the basics of good nutrition —
Last week, students were hard at work on a bright, crisp Tuesday, readying ingredients for the open house meal. Earlier in the morning, younger students had made the base for a zucchini pizza — they identified zucchinis on a table heaped with produce provided by local families, cleaned the vegetables and set to work on the preparation.
Fifth- and sixth-grade students clattered into the gymnasium, where Whittemore told them that they’d be making corn chowder for the open house.
The meal is being made over the course of several weeks and frozen, and Whittemore hopes that student volunteers will be on hand for a few hours on the night of the open house to put finishing touches on the meal.