Windham Global

Karl-Erik Grevendahl, from left, Christian Nyhlen and Ralph Meima visit with Howard Prussack at High Meadows Farm, Vermont's first certified organic farm (1976). 

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BRATTLEBORO — More than five years ago, a group of Brattleboro-area residents began exploring international partnerships that would lead to sharing Southeastern Vermont’s economic successes, challenges and innovations, and learning from others around the world who live in similar environments

That vision — shared by locals Ralph Meima, Roger Albee, Ellen Capy, Stephen Dotson and Carolyn Olivier — led to the creation of Windham Global Partners, whose goal is to strengthen the economic, social, and civic vitality and resilience of the Vermont region together with that of global partners.

These efforts became tangible with the signing of a memorandum of understanding this spring with WGP’s first global partner, Krinova Incubator and Science Park, in Kristianstad, Sweden.

Krinova is a nonprofit organization in Skane, the southernmost province of Sweden, a rural area similar to Vermont with a historic focus on farming and food industries.

“The challenges facing rural regions are more complex and more urgent than ever. Using technology and intercultural skills, we can reach out across the globe and collaborate with others to accelerate innovation, economic development, climate resilience and community preservation, connecting directly with peers and finding unexpected solutions to familiar problems,” Meima said in a statement.

Recently, Krinova CEO Christian Nyhlen and sustainable business development advisor Karl-Erik Grevendahl visited Windham County to experience food and farming innovations here.

Their three-day visit in June included more than 25 of the region’s organizations, businesses, farms and agencies.

The many businesses, organizations, agencies and farms that opened their doors to the Swedish guests included: Mocha Joe’s; Miller Farm of Vernon; Delta Campus; Winston Prouty Center; Windham Regional Commission; AgriTech Institute; Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; the Agency of Commerce and Community Development; the Brattleboro Food Co-op; the Brattleboro Food Sovereignty Working Group; Grateful Greens; Retreat Farm; Saxton’s River Distillery; Brattleboro Rotary; Food Connects; Vermont Food Bank; Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.; Windham Solid Waste Management District; Rich Earth Institute; the Scott Farm; High Meadows Farm; Landmark College; and Green Mountain Orchards.

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“It’s always enlightening to get to view our own region through the eyes of people from elsewhere. It reminds you how special this place is. Though Sweden and Vermont sound very different, we face many of the same problems, and share a lot of similarities in our climates, economies, demographics, and values. Their region serves as the breadbasket of their country, and is a leader in dairy, apples, and other food/farm products that Vermont is also known for,” said WGP’s Stephen Dotson. “I don’t think we could have found a more appropriate partner.”

Nyhlen was excited by what they found here.

“After our first rendezvous in Brattleboro in June 2022, we can see so much potential and future bridges to build. The warm welcome in combination with a highly relevant program have given us a strong belief that we can create mutual value for both companies and society. Starting a cross border collaboration is a long-term process.”

Karl-Erik Grevendahl pointed to the next steps: “Now starts the inspiring planning and implementation of the collaboration possibilities we bring with us home, and which we planted during our visit.”

As the collaboration unfolds, WGP anticipates that joint learning and enterprise opportunities will emerge from activities, including discussion forums, study projects, business matchmaking, trade visits, and reciprocal exchange of students and “entrepreneurs in residence.” Additionally, the partners will focus on comparing approaches to planning for resilient food and farm economies, and learn from each other how they can better support their rural economies.

“Adaptation to climate change already causes increasing disruptions and costs, and we need to be doing everything we can think of — as individuals, families, communities, Vermonters, Americans, humans — to quickly learn and implement the best practices we can find out there in the world, along with what we can figure out ourselves,” Meima said. “Long-term partnerships can help this. And they’re inspiring and motivating.”

WGP’s earliest efforts were spurred by the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, and originally organized through the efforts of the Ecovation Hub project, led by the BDCC. The Windham Regional Commission has played a key role in its development.