BRATTLEBORO -- It all started with a stroll ... a slow walk, if you will, down Main Street, that highlighted Vermont's historic agricultural dairy economy.
Then came organics, and local food.
Artists got on board and just as the heifers were hitting their stride gas prices spiked and there was a focus on sustainability, composting and green living.
Now, as Strolling of the Heifers enters its second decade, the newest idea -- slow living -- is gaining steam.
This is the second year that organizers for The Strolling of the Heifers have held a Slow Living Summit and this year dozens of speakers from across the country are coming to Brattleboro for three days of talks on food, economics, media,
The Slow Living Summit is an ambitious gathering that is dedicated to creating an alternative to fast food, fast money, fast communications and a world that is choking on its reliance on oil, organizers say.
Is the Strolling of the Heifers once again right ahead of a curve that we're likely to hear more about in the coming years?
"There is really nothing else like this in the United States that I know about," said Conference Coordinator Bill Densmore. "It's an opportunity to advance ideas and share projects as we try to move forward in a just and sustainable world."
The Slow Living Summit is being held in locations around
Densmore said organizers invited speakers who are involved in sustainable energy, social justice and businesses that are concerned with both profit and responsibility to their communities.
He said that while there are thousands of conferences around the world that address these issues independently, the Slow Living Summit is a unique gathering that brings them together with a mission to begin building a more humane way of living in the 21st century.
"As a unifying theme, we are trying to look at all these different groups that are concerned with how we will survive as a species without trashing our environment," Densmore said. "People are working hard on sustainable food policies and health care and investing, but they usually do it independently. We want to bring together all of these various silos as we move into a post carbon economy."
Speakers this year include U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Gov. Peter Shumlin, Oberlin College environmental professor David Orr, and Chris Martenson, author of "Crash Course."
Densmore said organizers are dedicated to gathering ideas at the summit and encouraging participants to leave with plans to make changes in their lives and in their homes.
"We want to grow actionable projects from this," he said. "We will ask people to write down their ideas, and we hope we will be able to make a strong effort to leave with ideas for change when we are done."
The Slow Food Movement started in Italy in 1986 as a reaction to fast food, and it became a rallying cry for sustainable agriculture and local food.
Three years ago Woody Tasch came to Brattleboro to lead a discussion on slow money, which is a new way of considering investments and profit, and that led to last year's summit.
Strolling of the Heifers General Manager Martin Langeveld said when the Stroll was celebrating its 10th year last year, organizers wanted to do something special and so they scheduled the first summit.
He said the participants were supportive, but they wanted less information on why the planet has found itself in this crisis, and more ideas about what to do about it.
"The whole movement is changing and evolving, and we want The Strolling of the Heifers to do that," Langeveld said. "We don't want to remain static. The idea was to bring all of these people together and see what comes out."
Tickets are still available for the Slow Living Summit.
For more information on the summit, and to see a full schedule, go to www.slowlivingsummit.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.