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Well, now NOT forgotten! I hope to be back at school soon. Didn’t want this one by Tucker and me to slip by….it’s the interview of the wonderful people of the Russell Family Farm.

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Ruth Beecher was energetic and extremely enthusiastic about her classes and teaching. She gave me insight into the unique program at the Robinson School and showed me the creative projects that the kids have done. Not only does Ruth Beecher teach traditional academic subjects, but she teaches her students art, teamwork, cooking, community knowledge and experiential knowledge of nature. She brings in people from the community to impart skills and wisdom that they have. Looking at the projects that she was doing was quite stunning when considering their breadth and depth. The interview went very well, but it makes me sad that it is not possible to focus on Robinson School with all of its unique attributes and deep connection to the town as a whole.

0:25 Growing up in Vermont. Living in the city and in the country.

0:57 Family and siblings. Family life growing up.

1:46 Husband Will and moving to Starksboro. College at UVM.

5:13 Switching from teaching different grades. This is her first year with third and fourth graders.

6:03 “What’s interesting, even within a straight grade, there is a huge range of ability. . . there’s a lot of sharing going on. . .t he older kids can teach the younger kids. . . everyone is good at something, some are better at riding a bike. . . or climbing the pole at recess.”

8:28 Lucky at Robinson school to have small class sizes.

8:55 “I have this huge range, so whatever level the child is at, I try to have things available for them in reading.”

10:12 Team building and emotional development in the classroom.

10:45 “We try to have a school-wide climate with three basic rules: we respect learning, we respect each other, and we respect Robinson School. . . . [any rule] can be phrased positively . . . We try to have the kids help make the classroom rules, and then see how they fit into those three categories.”

16:40 Learning outside the classroom, in nature

17:30 Sled dogs and learning from community

18:04 Art grant and on trying to infuse art into the classroom. Visual art, music, dance and movement. Her students’ art projects.

20:00 Student Writing

22:25 Bringing in the community members. Examples: Native American knowledge, cooking; making salsa, making cornmeal and cornbread

22:48 “I really am into food and nutrition and want kids to prepare their food and see where it comes from, and then eat it.”

26:00 “They love coming to school.”

26:26 Persistence as school wide theme and the importance of teaching persistence. Persistence the musical.

29:10 Differences between teaching younger versus older kids. Third and fourth graders are into social interactions.

31:56 How do you asses students?

35:36 Conflicts between classroom and administrative requirements.

37:02 “I also love living in the town that I work in because I feel like I know a lot of the families so well.”

37:41 “School is just one part of their day and then they have this other family life, and their friend life . . . . and that helps me understand if someone is having a hard time.”

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In this interview, Frank Bryan of Starksboro talks in his office in the Political Science department at UVM.  He greeted us with a sort of hardboiled curtness that was not unfriendly, but had the air of an old Hollywood newspaperman.  “Go,” he ejected, as soon as we were seated and minimal pleasantries dispensed.  We were still fumblng with the record button.  Bryan here discusses:

0:40 length of habitation in Starksboro.

1:15 Story of moving to Starksboro in ’70.  Deer camp, one-room.  “Al Gore would’ve loved us.  Our carbon footprint was almost nothing.  One room, no telephone.”

2:20 “heartbreaking” to have to bulldoze some of the self-built additions that were shoddy.

2:50 “anyway that’s all just personal shit”

3:00 Sloppy VT construction

3:15 we build better now

3:55 “We’re so much better off than we were 50 years ago.”  This impacts “community in VT.”

Attributes VT rural growth since the 60s to “technology” enabling people to “live comfortably” in VT, whereas 1860-1960 it was “too cold, lonely and depressing”, which he describes rather poetically.

5:48 How Bryan got his cabin and land.

6:15 Career history.  Mentions multiple marriages

6:30 7 kids in all.  All but 2 in VT.  Kids’ careers.

7:30 asks Bryan about whether people “raise their kids to leave”.  He discussefs telecommuting, imagines a future where it dominates the economy.

9:30 Telecommuters in Starksboro.  “Quite a few” though we don’t have the stats by town yet.”  “This is important for any scholar of the potenntial for place and community.”

10:25 Bryan envisions “more local organizations.”  “People are slowly becoming – I think – satisfied with where they live.

11:19 Bryan imagines that we are “becoming an ancillary world, where most of us aren’t doing anything but organizing.  Takes fairly routine examples of automation as

12:20 Worries about the future economy of ancillary telecommmuters being “class-based.”

12:50 the “three groups” in all communities.  The small percentage of “down-and-outers” who don’t participate.  The working-class professionals, who’ve been there a long time and are the backbone of civic structure.  The newcomers, often more professional-class, who sometimes get involved but often defer to the locals.

15:00 A lot of the good programs around the school are populated mostly by the kids of professionals.

15:20 discusses own background as a working-class kid with little interest in such things.  Mentions childhood, working on farms.

16:18 On the “bedroom community” and civic engagement.  “I wouldn’t put a percentagve on it, but there’s enough so you know it’s there.”  “Sure it’s a problem, but… what are you gonna do?  “As long as the profession is the driving force, you’re gonna be in trouble”

18:00 rural isolation a privilege.  But in terms of carbon footprint, “the most responsible Americans are the ones who live in the trailer parks.”

18:30 The poorer kids ride school buses more.  Seems about to say something about “bias” and “transportation.”  “The bus system in CVU is called the shame train.”  Talks about how kids who have cars are able to participate more in co-curriculars.

20:50 “What do you think Starksboro can do to change that?”  Bryan hesitates.  “Maintain local institutions.  It’s “nice to hope that we can educate people the think that way” (i.e., to participate in the various things we’ve been talking about.)

21:30 “The real solution is one that’s not popular with either conservatives or liberals… and that is: decentralizing power to the locality.”

21:50 In Starksboro, about 10-12% of the registered voters show up to Town Meeting.  State average is about 10-15%.

22:47 “Why is it such a low percentage?  Fundamentally, it’s because we decide almost nothing at the local level.”

23:27 “The main thing is, the reason we’re losing community in VT is that the community doesn’t have to get together to solve common problems.”  “Local control” used to be a conservative value.

24:00 “In the 50s, when I grew up, the towns in VT were pretty much responsible for social welfare.  It was declining, and it had been since the 30s.”  But education especially was still locally controlled to the level of curriculum.

24:50 Pithy comment on democracy involving fighting.

25:19 “If you take anything from this interview, this is what’s key”: contradiction in liberals who “want more community” and yet want “the state to solve all our problems.”  Contrary to the early centralizing IT, IT now can be a locality-empowering force.

26:16 Imagines a locally-controlled taxation system.  The rationale for centralizing taxes was admin efficiency.  Now electronics could easily reduce those costs to almost nothing, Bryan claims.

28:40 Income tax would be the only local tax that could pump money into the infrastructure in Starksboro, because the property isn’t worth much and there’s no sales to tax.

29:35 In sum: Starksboro in the next 10-20 years.  “We have a good infrastructure of community-conscious people in Starksboro, so I’m optimistic about that.  But I don’t think we can do much unless we’re empowered.  So that’s kinda pessimistic.

30:10 Imagining a left-right coalition for local power, bringing together the communalist wing of old conservatism, and the new communalism that came out of the 70s.  Criticizes Gen X (though he doesn’t name them) for their excessive individualism and materialism.

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In this interview I talked with three generations of the Cota family, a family that has been in Starksboro for four generations. Norman, his daughter Amy, and his granddaughter Rachel were all willing to tell me their stories. The Cotas were one of the older farming families and Norman farmed on his family farm until nine years ago. It was interesting to see the difference in how each generation grew up and the changes that they saw in the town through time. From Norman’s perspective especially, there were many more wholesome activities in the past for youth to do and life involved a lot less hassle and stress. Amy and Rachel talked to me about the school system and its role in shaping the youth of the town.

25: Norman early life

1:45: Family Home

3:22: Sold the farm, talking of the farm

4:40: “After that happened [sold the farm], we had to go out and find jobs. So, I’ve been working on a neighbor’s farm bout two miles up the road, and I’ve been there now for nine years, on that farm, so. And I do part time listing work here too, so I work back and forth.”

5:16: Location of Farm, condition of farm

6:30 Amy growing up on farm, young life in Starksboro

7:30 Challenge of working away from Starksboro

8:20 Norman talking more about growing up and about changes in the times. “There was less stress.” “You enjoyed yourself more, less pressure.” Talk about changes in family life.

11:25 Amy talks about all the family gatherings she had growing up. Talks about difference now.

12:40 Amy’s brother who moved out of state and about Norman’s wife.

13:50 “[Now] salary wise, it takes two jobs to pay for your house.”

14:30 “You weren’t under as much pressure back then as you are today.” Intophilosophy on raising kids.

16:11: Rachel’s favorite things to do. A younger perspective on Starksboro.

17:05 Rachel’s brothers

17:38: Are your sons going to stay in Starksboro? “My older son would like to go to college and play on a soccer team.”

18:29 Employment in Starksboro.

19:03 Amy and her husband as high school sweet hearts.

19:35 Rachel’s perspective on family and certain houses. Tells family relations and interactions. Jack the cat.

21:25 Subdividing the farm between Norman and his siblings. Difference in ownership of land now and then.

23:00 Other families with farms. Clifford farm. Lots of the big families moved out.

25:35 Trailer parks and IBM workers who commute to Burlington. “They might be here two are three years, and then be gone because they get transferred to another plant.” Commuter culture and how they don’t integrate into the community.

29:28 Robinson School. Changes in school from teaching in a trailer to now. Changes in the school system.

32:06 Norman: “When I graduated from grade school up here, there was six of us!” Talk about numerical changes in school system.

34:00 Why is Robinson school a good school? Amy: “The teachers are very nice, they are very involved with the students and their family lives. They are very much into asking, ‘So how was your game last nigh? Did you win? Did you lose?’ . . . They are very into what the kids have done after school.” More discussion of teachers.

35:29 The responsive classroom system.

38:44 Norman: “I enjoyed school.” Norman was a good student. Went to college. Was going to be a surveyor, but ended up just working on the farm.

41:35 Norman joining the fire department. Talking about his many positions in the town.

45:00 Norman’s mother and late father.

48:30 Kids who get into trouble these days because they have nothing to do.

50:09 Drugs

58:15 Changes in farming and the life of a farmer. Norman:”I put in twelve hours a day, up there. . . I get up between two thirty and twenty minutes to three.”

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I interviewed siblings Linda Barnard and Rodney Orvis in Linda’s home in Jerusalem about growing up in Jerusalem, why they’ve chosen to stay, how the community has changed, and how they imagine it will look in the future.

I’ve taken out a lot of really good/important quotes, but here are some basic time stamps….its a very long interview, but worthwhile.

1:00– Linda on growing up in South Starksboro

3:15—Grandma Helen Orvis

6:00—going to Bristol and Lincoln, and getting groceries delivered.

7:45—Rodney on growing up in the little red house

12:00—the changing landscape

15:00—”we were poor”

25:45 “Life was so simple then” on growing up and using your imagination

27:30—Grandma Orvis and independent women.

39:50—connections (or lack thereof) with Starksboro Village, and the building of Rt. 17

48:30—Linda on going away to school and deciding to return to Jerusalem, a changed community

55:40—Rodney on going away and coming back

58:00—mentions Larry and conserved land (the stevens block); hunting and fishing

1:07:30—zoning, development, growth and conservation in South Starksboro

1:11:00—rebuilding community, cyclic growth, and commuter communities.

1:19:00—Jerusalem in 20 years

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