BRATTLEBORO — Locals know the Slow Living Summit as the product of and prelude to June's annual Strolling of the Heifers. So why is the educational event creeping up on the calendar — so much so, it's set to start this week?
"We're trying something new," summit coordinator Shanta L. Evans-Crowley says. "Even though the two are connected in mission, it's nice to give each some space."
The sixth annual program, established to promote "Sustainable, Local, Organic and Wise" solutions to worldwide problems, is inviting the public to downtown Brattleboro's River Garden on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
This year's theme, "Food & Ag Entrepreneurship: How to Succeed in Business by Slowing Down," is the result of suggestions from past participants.
"People said they wished there was more on entrepreneurship," Evans-Crowley says. "We took that feedback to heart and decided to focus on that spirit."
Barbi and Paul Schulick, founders of the local New Chapter vitamin and supplement company, will kick off the summit Thursday evening by telling their story in a keynote presentation titled "Nourishing Slow While Growing Fast."
Some 40 featured speakers will follow Friday and Saturday, with programs ranging from "Seeding, Nurturing and Driving a Purpose-Led Organization" by Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry's global director of social mission, to "Slow Medicine for the Entrepreneur: How Do Creative, Passionate, and Committed People Need to Take Care of Themselves in Order to Reach Their Goals?" by Dr. Michael Finkelstein, the self-professed "Slow Medicine Doctor."
Organizers hope the shift to a spring weekend will be more accommodating to area college students and locals who work.
"We're making it very accessible for everyone to participate," Evans-Crowley says. "You can choose what part of the summit you'd like to attend, and there is a sliding fee scale with a lot of rates and flexibility."
People can learn more or register for the summit by logging onto its website, www.slowlivingsummit.org.
"It's common at most conferences for the whole idea to be about accelerating," Evans-Crowley says. "We want to encourage slowing down, being mindful, thinking about not just what worked, but also what didn't that led to an epiphany. We want people to think of how they're taking care not only of business but also of themselves and their communities."
Evans-Crowley noted that support from sponsors and foundations again makes it possible for the Summit to offer stipended rates for people not able to afford the full registration rates.
"We encourage everyone to visit the website and explore the program, and if you want to come but can't afford the full fee, please check out the stipended registration option, which is open to Summiteers with lower incomes, as well as for seniors, farmers and artists."
There is also a discounted student rate.
"What makes this conference different," Evans-Crowley said, "is that it doesn't happen in a sterile conference center environment. Instead, Main Street, Brattleboro is what connects all the sessions, so Summiteers get fresh air, and they get to experience Brattleboro."
Rather than serving a buffet lunch, Summit organizers this year encourage attendees to lunch at downtown eateries, many of which serve locally-sourced foods.