Vermont: The Pleasant Throwback

I’m a New Englander at heart. Grew up in Connecticut; still root for the Red Sox; like 4 seasons; enjoy moving from state to state within an hour or two.

But for all that, I never really spent much time in Vermont. So, on a recent R&R family swing through 7 states (hey, you can do that in a day in New England!), we spent a good chunk of time in Vermont.

And I learned something about how Vermont promotes Vermont.

A while back, there was a big brouhaha about Vermont trying to keep Wal-Mart out if its borders, for fear that the big-box chain would ruin the small business economic setup in the state. I didn’t quite “get it” (overly used to NJ, I guess, where big boxes are ubiquitous), but hey, it’s kind of nice to see a group of people giving a kick in the teeth to mega-business conformity.

But, after spending several days in the state, visiting various towns and businesses, it began to dawn on me. Vermonters like to rely on Vermonters. Small business inter-dependence is a way of life in the small and scattered state, not an option.

I first grasped it when we went on the Ben & Jerry’s tour, and they talked about only using milk (non-bovine growth hormone produced milk) from local Vermont farms. Local community support was (is) a big deal for that company. And, as we visited various shops, we noted that so many of the products being offered were made locally. Cheeses, salsas, wines, beers, meats, maple-stuff, crafts – Vermont sells Vermont.


Now when I go to my local Wal-Mart here in NJ, I just see a bunch of products that, to me and to everyone else, are “root-less.” These are commodities sourced in bulk to obtain and offer low prices. And, as a customer, I appreciate that – up to a point. But as I far more eagerly opened my wallet in Vermont, I realized that the business climate had this “local support” backdrop and feel to it. That ice cream, that syrup, that cider, that chocolate, was made a by a local citizen-craftsman-company. That little store was run by a townsperson. It began to dawn on me why they didn’t want a Wal-Mart invasion. I find that I didn’t want that for Vermont either all of a sudden. It’s a way-of-life/quality-of-life issue.

Oh, and they don’t have billboards either. Do you realize how nice that is?

So, Vermont, my hat’s off to you. Keep up the resistance. Keep being a pleasant and distinctive destination. Maybe I’ll pay more for your stuff, but you know what? You’re worth it.

[Vermonters – do I have this right?]


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

4 Responses to Vermont: The Pleasant Throwback

  1. Steve, glad you had a nice visit. Yup, that’s Vermont. We declared independence in 1777 before becoming the 14th state. It’s probably why we have a very conservative republican Governor and a independent socialist Senator.

    C.C. Chapman made a great analogy in his talk at a social media breakfast here in the spring, Social Media is like a Small Town.

  2. Amy Fitch says:

    Great post Steve, as an honorary Vermonter (the hubby and all his family are native Vermonters), you are absolutely right. Even when people leave Vermont and pursue careers outside of the state, they take with them the “local support” mentality. It’s infectious. I’d like for it to catch on worldwide. I can’t wait to share this with my father-in-law. He’ll love your post.

  3. ellen hoenig says:

    Steve, Nothing like a vermont country store, dinner at a great county inn or a hike during leaf season…sounds like you had a chance to appreciate vermont’s unique and quaint personality…if you liked ben & jerry’s, wait until you experience real maple syrup being produced…or a trip to shelburne’s historic farm…i think another road trip to vt is in order…just don’t go during mud season…(may)! 🙂

  4. Thanks Steve.

    This is a great example of how a couple of brave legislative choices (no billboards; no big-box WalMarts) can have the effect of creating / reinforcing a place’s brand, encouraging innovation, and differentiating themselves from their neighbours in an area where tourist dollars flow freely between small states.

    It always seems backwards to say “no” to things, but in this case they picked the right things. I’m sure many other places wish they had taken a stand on those same issues when they still had the chance.

    Go Vermont!

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