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By Kara Herlihy and Lisa Loomis
In addition to the top news stories of the year, The Valley Reporter has compiled the year's best feel-good stories, stories that represent all that is good about the Mad River Valley. Here, in no particular order, are those stories.
Harwood Varsity Field Hockey takes home state championship
It was a "dream season" for the Harwood Union varsity field hockey team, who took home the State Championship trophy following what spectators called a "nail-biting" 2-1 game that took place Saturday, October 25, on the turf field at UVM.
The Highlanders defeated defending Division 2 State Champions, the Woodstock High School Wasps, thus completing their perfect season with a record of 16 wins, 0 ties, and 0 losses.
It was a Cinderella season of sorts, for first year varsity coach Heidi Hill, who led the Highlanders to their first state title since 1986. The team had a total of 10 seniors, some of whom had been on the varsity team together since their sophomore year. Their teamwork and hard work came together at the right moment, according to spectators, providing for a fulfilling and gratifying big win in front of the copious fans at the UVM stadium.
The Vermont Foodbank purchases Kingsbury Community Farm
The Vermont Foodbank is the new owner of the Kingsbury Community Farm in Warren.
Nine months after the town of Warren, a group of Mad River Valley (MRV) citizens and organizations, and the Vermont Land Trust purchased the Kingsbury Farm, the Vermont Foodbank was selected to become the next owner of the farm. The competitive proposal process ended in June as the committee evaluated proposals, seeking a farm owner to purchase the permanently protected farm and make it available for community uses, promote educational opportunities, and contribute to a community-based food system in The Valley.
The Vermont Foodbank is now under contract to purchase the 20.2-acre farm this winter and has committed to creating a fully functioning farm operation that will provide a wide variety of fresh produce for distribution to food shelves in the Mad River Valley and throughout Vermont's charitable food system.
In addition to the farming operation, the Vermont Foodbank plans to renovate the Kingsbury farmstead facility to provide a four-season space for community meetings, office space and educational programs where the public can learn about the connections between agriculture and hunger in Vermont.
The Vermont Foodbank purchased the Kingsbury Farm for $225,000, its appraised value as a conserved farm. While the Vermont Land Trust purchased the farm for $495,000 last November, placing a conservation easement on the land allows VLT to sell the farm for less and guarantees the permanent protection and affordability of this agricultural resource for future generations. Local fund-raising campaigns successfully raised the funds needed to complete the sale to the Vermont Foodbank.
Thanksgiving turkey project a huge success
This is the third year that The Valley Reporter has partnered with Shaw's Supermarket in Waitsfield and the Mad River Valley Interfaith Council of Churches to raise funds to create Thanksgiving baskets (including turkeys) for local families in need.
For this project, The Valley Reporter purchases the turkeys from Shaw's and sells "turkey ads" that cover the cost of a turkey plus a donation to the Interfaith Council which purchases other necessities for a Thanksgiving basket.
Local churches gather food donations from their members. Those donations were collected and brought to the Mad River Valley Food Shelf for inventorying. Volunteers shop for the rest of the items needed for the baskets and then the turkeys are collected and more volunteers assemble the baskets. The baskets are delivered to local families -- also by volunteers.
In 2007, the turkey project raised enough funds to buy turkeys and create baskets for 45 families. This year, the request for help was for almost 70 local families.
This year more local businesses and families came forward to purchase the turkey ads. There were anonymous donors and there were some advertisers who donated twice, three times and five times the cost of the ad for the project. Also this year there were more volunteers for assembling and delivering than could be used along with the donations of food and condiments from local businesses.
Rotary helps Mad River Path with Village Path section
The Mad River Path Association (MRPA) worked this fall to complete a section of the Mad River Path that runs through Irasville from Carroll Road to the Skatium. This section is made up of elevated boardwalks and bridges that allow the path to traverse the Class II wetlands that are prevalent in the area.
"The Village Path, as it is referred to, will provide an important pedestrian travel-way that will encourage community members and visitors to walk or bike from place to place within the Village -- without the use of a car and away from Route 100," explained spokesperson Tara Hamilton.
MRPA completed the project with the help of local Rotarians, GMVS students and many other volunteers who participated in several workdays.
Volunteers also completed work already begun on the Village Path this fall.
This section of the Mad River Path was funded in part by a grant from the Mad River Recreation District and Mad River Rotary.
The Mad River Recreation District also awarded the MRPA a grant to assist with completion of the Village Path section that traverses the town pond in front of the Big Picture Theater. That section will be completed in the spring of 2009.
Three families create Vermont Yak Company in Waitsfield
A former dairy farm became home to Vermont's first herd of yaks this spring when three Waitsfield families created The Vermont Yak Company.
The herd of Tibetan yaks arrived in April at the Steadfast Farm on Route 100 north of Waitsfield Village. The Vermont Yak Company is a collaborative venture between three local families who bill themselves as "a farmer, a therapist, a businessman, a professor, a hockey mom, a nonprofit leader, and their six kids."
The principals include farmer David Hartshorn and his therapist wife Paula Hartshorn; Professor Rob Williams and his select board member and nonprofit director wife Kate Williams; and businessman Ted Laskaris and his wife Susan. The Laskaris' own the Steadfast Farm where the yaks are quartered. That farm is the former Hartshorn dairy farm, where David was raised.
While yaks have been raised in the West for some time, this is the first herd of yaks to be raised in New England and in Vermont. The yaks are a variety of hardy Tibetan yaks. Eighteen females, three bulls and three babies arrived in late April and since that time several babies have been born.
The local yak coalition is raising the animals organically for meat.
Moretown Landfill will have gas soon
The Moretown Landfill's methane gas-to-energy plant may be generating energy soon; the gas recovery system could generate electrical power for 2,600 homes, according to MLI General Manager Tom Badowski.
The 8,000-square-foot site houses a methane gas collection system as well as a methane-to-energy production facility with "critical grade mufflers" and hoods to prevent excessive noise.
Power will be transformed to a higher voltage and delivered only within Green Mountain Power's electric lines. The system will be run by two 20-cylinder engines (approximately 3,200 kilowatts of power generated, enough to run 2,600 homes) with room for a third to power the operation.
The new equipment will actually be quieter than the current system, according to MLI General Manager Tom Badowski and will not contribute to any harmful emissions.
Rotarians continue their good works
Local Rotarians, as usual, spent their year in pursuit of good works on behalf of the community. The list of their beneficiaries tells the tale: Central Vermont Health and Hospice, Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, Central Vermont Medical Center, Circus Smirkus, College Scholarships for Valley Students (4), Dictionary Project, Green Mountain Club, Green Mountain Cultural Center, Harwood Graduation, Mad River Path Assoc., Mad River Ski Patrol/Greenwood Week, Mad River Valley Ambulance Service, Nancy Allen Memorial Ski Race, Peoples Health & Wellness Clinic, Valley Food Shelf (MRVIC), Valley Players, Valley Health Center Capital Building Program, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports (VASS), Vermont Festival of the Arts, Vermont Humanities Council, Vermont Military Family Assistance, Vermont Fuel Assistance, and the Waitsfield-Fayston Fire Department.
Harwood heating with wood
The year 2008 is the year of the woodchip at Harwood Union High School, following the dedication of the school's new wood chip boiler heating facility, on October 2.
School board members, parents and students as well as Governor Jim Douglas recognized the school's commitment to be fiscally as well as environmentally responsible. School board chair Scott Mackey commended student leaders, seniors Lorne Nix and Gabriela Meade, for their initiative that he said "would quickly pay for itself."
The 1,200-square-foot building is located outside the maintenance receiving area on the east side of the school which houses both the wood chip heating system and chip storage. School board members anticipate burning 850 tons of wood chips, once operational, during the 2008-09 heating season.
Voters approved the $1.68 million project for the South Duxbury school in November 2006. Harwood opted to put the initiative on the November ballot in order to take advantage of a state program that pays for 90 percent of construction costs.
The remaining 10 percent of the cost, about $168,000, is the school's responsibility.
Warren celebrates Independence Day
The annual Fourth of July Celebration in Warren Village was a celebration of civil liberties and the kind of sunshine one can only fantasize about in late December.
Crowds of hungry, sunburned Valley dwellers combed the village looking for their buddies, as children feasted on cotton candy and smudged their face paint.
The annual parade down Main Street featured floats of every variety. The Steadfast Farm presented their "Yak to the Future" float, proving that in our Green Mountain State, furry baby farm animals are still chick magnets.
"Best Car" went to the 1961 Mercedes-Benz 190SL owned by Gene Murphy of Warren. "Best Bike" went to Sean Linsky. Don Mayer's canine companion "Hammer" won "Best Dog," and the "Best Kids' Float" went to The Warren Church Deacon Dunk Tank.
Bourne's Energy earned "Best Truck," "Best Commercial" went to Waterbury, "Yak to the Future" won "Best in Theme," Sugarbush took "Best Musical" and, of course, Dr. Butsch took "Best in Show." "Best Political Float"? All hail the Prickly Mountain Humvee.
The Mad Mountain Scramblers serenaded the crowd at Brooks Field, while the kiddies cooled off via slip and slides and water-filled bouncy houses. Potato sack races provided thorough entertainment -- especially when the grown-ups took to the starting line.
Warren Independence Day was top notch, thanks to the help of several dedicated volunteers, vendors and musicians.
Eagle Scout builds new dugouts at Couples Field
The Couples Field in Waitsfield has two new dugouts courtesy of Eagle Scout Josh Bombard, who built the structures as a part of a community service project to further his advancement to Eagle Scout.
Bombard did all of the fund raising for the project and sought out Couple's Club president Stan Barosky to ask permission to build the two dugouts.
With the help of other members of Troop 100, local building suppliers, and the local Lion's and Mason's Club