On October 11, VPR’s Tell Me More Tour visited Addison County, hosting a public event at Shacksbury Cider in Vergennes. Then, on October 18, VPR visited Windsor County with an event at Billings Farm & Museum. And the tour wrapped up in Chittenden County on October 30 with an event at ArtsRiot in Burlington.
“The nice thing about Burlington is that it’s so close to Vermont!” I’ve heard this “joke” several times since I moved here.
Like any stereotype, there’s a grain of truth here. The young people, the diversity, the streets teeming with life — Burlington can feel like a world away from places like Victory and Bellows Falls.
But I walked away feeling differently after the the Tell More More Tour finale October 30 at ArtsRiot in Burlington. Our fans in Burlington share many of the same passions and concerns as our supporters in rural Vermont. They’re worried about some of the problems we face, but they’re hopeful that we can come together as a community to address them.
Whether you’re in Bennington or Burlington, you can count on meeting some fascinating people at a VPR event. At ArtsRiot, I met an anthropologist who spent most of her career in Papua New Guinea, and a woman who walked the length of the old divide between East and West Germany for her next book.
I also met three of the third-party and/or independent candidates running for statewide office in Vermont. They weren’t happy that VPR didn’t include them in the candidate debates. I spent some time with the Liberty Union Party’s candidate for Governor, Emily Peyton. We already interview all candidates for statewide office, but she asked us to consider additional ways to reach VPR’s audience, such as asking each candidate to record answers to a list of questions. I’m not sure what our news team will decide to do, but I appreciate the willingness to speak with us in a spirit of cooperation.
One last Burlington item: wherever we travelled in Vermont, we heard about VPR being too “Chittenden-centric” — too focused on Burlington and its surrounding county. But in Burlington, we heard that we’re not doing enough to cover the issues in their community too!
The truth is, with the decline in the number of newspaper reporters statewide, VPR and other media organizations are going to have to get more creative and cooperative to cover the issues affecting communities across Vermont, including Burlington.
Burlington is certainly a unique place in Vermont...but EVERY town is a unique place in Vermont. If I’ve learned nothing else from the Tell Me More Tour, it’s that.
A couple of dispatches from our other two final Tell Me More Tour events:
In Woodstock, about 40 people showed up at Billings Farm and Museum for the Windsor County event, including one young man who really stood out.
John Cassell is in the 8th grade, and he is a VPR superfan. Sometimes at these events, you see parents bringing their kids along — but in John’s case, he asked his parents to bring him! John encouraged us to include more stories by and about young people, and to cover more of Vermont’s tech industry.
Meanwhile in Vergennes at our Addison County event, I was reminded of the Future Farmers of America pledge I learned growing up in Iowa: “I believe in the future of farming, with a faith born not of words, but of deeds.”
Many traditional dairy farms are continuing to struggle, but agri-tourism seems to be growing. Our hosts for the event, Shacksbury Cider, win the prize for the best event space of the tour — their cellar, complete with huge barrels of cider. Their attention to finding unique apples and providing a fun experience in drinking cider seems to the future of farming, at least for some farmers in Vermont.
That’s all for now from our 14-county Tell Me More Tour! At VPR, we’re working to summarize and digest all that we’ve learned over the last four months. We’ll be back in touch soon to report out to you, and let you know how we plan to respond.