Fish, Farmers & The New Economy

Published: October 2nd, 2015

 “I try to base my life on the idea of self sufficiency- there is just enough for everyone and not one bit more. There is enough for generosity but not waste”

                                                          –Donella Meadows, The Global Citizen


Watching the fragility and the resiliency of life play out through my mom’s veterinary practice gave me insights into the biological and social layers of routine decisions. Midnight phone calls would have us suiting up into astronaut-like gear to rescue trapped skunks from surrounding farms (helping both the farmer and the skunk) and releasing them onto our land. Or inadvertently adopting a 15-pound cat with an aggression disorder that continues to spend his life actively trying to be loved or stalking us with intent to kill. I learned to face problem solving with optimism, knowing that with knowledge of suffering comes the obligation to act. As a result, if someone or something needed help, it was there. When a few clients couldn’t afford to pay the vet bills, we would come home to pies, fresh eggs and veggies piled on the kitchen counter. Other times, clients quietly continue their lives, with healthier animals, and without a word of thanks. Growing up in this environment showed me that the exchange of services extends beyond the monetary, but is a reflection of values and can be a catalyst for compassion. And that compensation can be as little as the personal knowledge that, having confronted an issue, the world is better for it.

When I was on exchange at Dartmouth my junior year, I became interested in ecosystem science and closed loop systems. This background gave me the foundation to start my own nonprofit organization, Cultivating Action, during my last year at Mount Holyoke College. Our current goal is to expand environmental education, and we have been placing aquaponic systems in schools so that students and teachers can experience the thrill of watching scientific concepts come to life. There is something invaluable in seeing a symbiotic relationship in action, and in beginning to recognize our own relationship with the ecosystems we inhabit.

My interest in systems led me to the Donella Meadows Institute, and I started working as Communications and Program support just as everyone was kicking into high gear for the 2015 New Economy Week. It seemed fitting that my first project, would focus on recognizing the value of healthy individuals, communities and landscapes. That fresh veggies on countertops and students invested in understanding lifecycles are more meaningful than their price tag alone. Finding panelists, reaching out to local news outlets and meeting with collaborative organizers was a thrilling dive into what it takes to continue a movement. And through it, I learned what the ‘new’ economy means, as a symposium topic, and a future framework for Vermont.

New Economy Week events will question our current economic structure by examining conventional and radical approaches to moving Vermont forward. The week of Oct. 10th through the 17th is a chance to take part in developing an economy that prioritizes the wellbeing of families and communities over traditional profit, while trusting and encouraging local innovation.

The symposium we have been busy planning is on October 14th from 2:00 to 6:30 at the Chase Center in the Vermont Law School. It will be a place to share stories while exploring local, environmentally conscious investment opportunities. It will be a chance to join next-generation leaders, farmers, businesses and nine organizations in shaping Vermont’s future through investment in: Community projects, decentralized energy, local farm and food systems. We want to help people gain the tools to strengthen communities, be stewards of the land, and align personal investments with principals. And true to Vermont’s finest tradition: We will lead by example.

New Economy Week is a project of the New Economy Coalition, with more information available at In Vermont, the Donella Meadows Institute is spearheading event organization across the state. Sponsors for Vermont’s New Economy Week include BALE, Donella Meadows Institute, King Arthur Flour, Slow Money Vermont, Clean Yield Asset Management, Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, Vermont Law School, Vermont Community Loan Fund, Sustainable Woodstock, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and others.

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About The Donella Meadows Project

The mission of the Donella Meadows Project is to preserve Donella (Dana) H. Meadows’s legacy as an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, and teacher; to manage the intellectual property rights related to Dana’s published work; to provide and maintain a comprehensive and easily accessible archive of her work online, including articles, columns, and letters; to develop new resources and programs that apply her ideas to current issues and make them available to an ever-larger network of students, practitioners, and leaders in social change.  Read More

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