Linking Communities And Making Vermont Feel Like Home: What I Heard In Rutland County

Aug 9, 2018

On August 4, VPR’s Tell Me More Tour visited Rutland County, spending the day at the Rutland Farmers Market.

I grew up in an Iowa railroad town. Train whistles punctuated my childhood, and mile-long coal trains often blocked my path to school. So, I have a weakness for Rutland, another town built by the railroad and now, building a new identity. Rutland is the latest stop on VPR’s Tell Me More Tour, where we’re visiting all 14 Vermont counties to answer these questions: What’s special about your town? What issues are important to you? And how can VPR serve you better? 

Scott Finn with Sharon Parquette Nimtz
Credit Michelle Owens / Vermont Public Radio

On Saturday morning, we set up the VPR tent in the middle of the Rutland Farmers Market, which was also near a street fair and Rutland's Walmart. We heard from a diverse cross-section of the greater Rutland community. 

We had a wealth of VPR talent in Rutland that day, including Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb and All Things Considered Host Henry Epp. I mostly found myself assisting fans get photos with Mitch and Henry.

Here’s what I heard:

  • Many people here feel like their town gets a bad rap. They say coverage by national media play up Rutland’s problems (like opioid addiction) and ignore positive things, like the Farmers Market.
  • That being said, the challenges of redeveloping downtown Rutland are real. The buildings are beautiful, but not all of them are full.

After the Rutland event, I had a chance to attend the birthday party for Rutland-area legend Al Wakefield: executive recruiter, musician, and former VPR board member. His party featured a jazz ensemble and fascinating people. In the course of ten minutes, I met a boat mechanic, a financial advisor and a diversity consultant. 

"VPR makes me excited to be a human!" Potentially the best listener comment we've ever received!
Credit Michelle Owens / Vermont Public Radio

I finished that day at a nearby fundraiser for Pittsford Village Farm. Young and old ate hamburgers and listened to bluegrass music. Baird Morgan worked the grill and Betsy Morgan told me the story of how residents banded together to save this working farm in the middle of town.

They hope their farm will attract new families and help Pittsford grow. Now when I think of Pittsford, I’ll think of the town with the farm at its center. 

That’s what I learned in the Rutland area. So, what is VPR’s role here? I think the answer comes from VPR’s Tamika Davis, who was part of our team in Rutland.

She writes: “I learned about a woman who graduated from college and moved to a smaller Vermont town where the only access to TV was satellite service, which she couldn't afford. VPR served as her link to her community, and helped make her new home feel like a real home.”

Linking community. Making Vermont feel like home. What a great description of what VPR is and should be.

The VPR table set up at the Rutland Farmers Market on August 4.
Credit Tamika Davis / Vermont Public Radio