Climate and Community Resilience: Lessons from the Soil

March - May 2020

6 Spring Events to Unpack What Creating Our Future Looks Like

Webinar Series Online Until Public Gatherings Can Resume

A collaboration between: Vital Communities, Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition (VHSC),

Hanover Food Co-op, Upper Valley Food Co-op, Building A Local Economy (BALE), 

Extinction Rebellion Upper Valley, and Grow More, Waste Less

Join us for a 6 event deep dive into building healthy soil and resilient communities! Free and open to all.

What is good for the soil is good for our communities. Deep healthy soil governs flood resilience, clean water, strong local economies, and a myriad of ecological functions. Lessons from the soil -- such as interdependence, biodiversity, and resource cycling --can help us to understand the past and create the future for the Upper Valley. In these times of great ecological, social,  and economic transformation, this series of six programs will unpack the science of whole systems landscape function, explore how land and society change together, and offer practical ways to engage with the land around you for community resilience and social justice. 


This series will introduce the functions of Earth’s energy, water, carbon, and nutrient cycles. It will center lived experiences, sometimes difficult truths, and social and economic justice. Attendees will collaborate with various presenters and facilitators to explore information about the land and inhabitants in the Upper Valley at different periods throughout time - the past, present, and future. 


The format encourages an approach of thinking in whole systems rather than parts, of listening over speaking, of curiosity over knowing, and of participatory learning. A desired outcome is that people will take new ideas, new understandings, new questions, and new energies forward into the community to create positive change. This series aims to expand the base of active “doers” who work together toward a more livable, resilient region and planet.

With Deep Gratitude To Our Sponsors

Contact Cat Buxton to add your logo to this important series.

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Special thanks to sponsor Chelsea Green Publishing who has generously made a discount code available for participants of this series.


Use code BALE35 at checkout on and receive 35% off ALL TITLES! This code is only good on web orders.

Series Content

Learn more about some of the organizations partnering for this series and see more Series Resources.

Read the Land Acknowledgement for this series prepared by Donna and John Moody from the Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions

Event 1: Sunday, March 22, 3:30 PM - 6 PM - Webinar 

Earth’s Cycles: Foundations of Energy and Matter

Framing the entire series, this event introduces cycles of energy and matter that create a livable planet. The soil health principles provide a lens to understand how systems work together and to identify points of intervention where changes have been - and can be - made to influence climate and ecology. 

Watch the Recording of Event 1 and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

See More Series Resources


Cat Buxton is a busy cross-pollinator and change facilitator from the White River watershed in Vermont. She is an effective and enthusiastic educator, community organizer, and advocate for food system change. She works with individuals, schools, community groups, and statewide and national organizations to make a difference one meal, one compost pile, and one landscape at a time.

See Cat's slides. And see the Flour and Bread video!

Cat Buxton's Soil and Soul Health Principles

Didi Pershouse's Soil Health Principles 

Lauren Weston works with various change-makers across Vermont on projects involving water resources, climate justice, resilience, and soil health. Lauren is passionate about sharing her technical and engineering knowledge with the people around her. She works with Vermont communities to co-create a path forward through the climate and ecological crises. 

See Lauren's slides.

Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing

Event 2: Sunday, April 5, 3:30 PM - 6 PM - Webinar

Historical Landscape: Learning from the Past

Take a deep dive into the history of the Upper Valley to understand its watersheds, landscapes, climates, and inhabitants - and how they affect each other. Use the lessons of the past to envision a just future. 

Watch the Recording of Event 2 ​and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

See More Series Resources


Chief Nathan Pero of the Koasek Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation

Chief Nathan Pero was born into the Tribe in "49" and has lived and learned about his heritage in the Upper Valley all his life except for 7 1/2 years in the Air Force, being deployed to Europe and Southeast Asia and to many Stateside bases. Nathan Pero has been The Sag8mo (Chief) since 2011. He loves to go to schools, events and meetings to tell "the other side of the story." He grew up on a small dairy and vegetable farm in Thetford. His family grew up outdoors. They got electricity when he was 15. One of the first shows he saw was the Beatles going to America.

Contact Chief Pero to have him come talk at your next event:

Whitney Shields, MFALP'17, is CAFS' Clinical Teaching Fellow. Previously, Whitney was a litigation paralegal at Langrock Sperry & Wool, where she worked primarily on an environmental case in Southern Vermont. Whitney hails from New Jersey and earned a BA in Theater and Women and Gender Studies from Montclair State University. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa (2010-2012), where she implemented a food security conference, and organized a reforestation project planting over 300 moringa trees. After the Peace Corps, she developed a documentary theater piece at Genesis Farm in New Jersey to explore and share the community’s relationship with their local Community Supported Garden. During this time, Whitney realized that she wanted to pursue food and agriculture work as a career. Currently, Whitney splits her time among several projects, including the Legal Food Hub of Vermont, the Healthy Food Policy Project, and research into SNAP eligibility for people with certain felony convictions.

Learn more about the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS).

See Whitney's Slides

Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing

Event 3: Monday, April 13, 5:30 PM - 8 PM - Webinar

Here and Now: Human Impacts

The world today has been shaped by human decisions to rearrange Earth's systems. Learn about how and why the world exists in its current unstable state and explore possibilities to make better decisions in the future.

Watch the Recording of Event 3 and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

See More Series Resources


Asma Elhuni is a proud Muslim woman who came to the United States as a child. She has a degree in Political Science from Georgia State University where she was the recipient of the university’s 2016 MLK Humanitarian Award. Asma tries to listen and to uplift the voices of groups oftentimes marginalized by society. She has organized in areas of immigration and black lives matter. She was featured in a documentary produced by Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights telling the story of six activists in Atlanta. Asma was also among the contributors to the updated version of “The New Appeal for Human Rights” in Georgia. She has also helped change the policy in Atlanta to allow Muslim women to keep their mandated hijabs on at Atlanta Detention Center. Asma moved to the Upper Valley two years ago and is currently working as Organizer for the Upper Valley area. She has just started an NLG chapter in NH and had been organizing around immigration and economic justice including organizing to pass the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance and deplatforming racist speakers like Border Patrol and Robert Spencer.

Asma's National Lawyer's Guild Email Address:

Asma's Personal Email Address:

See Resources Asma Shared.

Francine Miller is an attorney and Senior Legal Fellow at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont.  Fran is a trademark lawyer, and after various volunteer positions in New York City with organizations focusing on injustice in the food system and the development of urban agriculture, decided to move the focus of her legal work.   She completed her LLM (masters of law) in food and agriculture policy at VLS in 2016, and moved to Vermont to work with CAFS in September 2019.

Learn more about the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS).

Sources from Fran's Presentation

Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing

Event 4: Sunday, April 26, 3:30 PM - 6 PM - Webinar 

Systems Collapse: Climate and Ecological Crises

The environment is destabilizing, along with societies, economies, and cultures. Understand the collapse through various lenses to explore adaptation and avoid false solutions. 

Watch the Recording of Event 4 and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

See More Series Resources


Stephen Leslie, along with his wife Kerry Gawalt and daughter Maeve, manages Cedar Mountain Farm; a horse-powered CSA market garden and Jersey cow dairy, located at Cobb Hill Co-Housing in Hartland, VT.  Stephen is the author of “The New Horse-Powered Farm” and “Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century” both from Chelsea Green Publishing. 

Sarah Cohen Wood, Human Security, Conflict Prevention and Resiliency Planner. Ms. Wood has over 20 years of experience in conflict prevention, participatory public planning,  and vulnerability and risk reduction strategies, with a focus on resource conflicts (i.e. energy, food, water and land) and recovery systems. Ms. Wood specializes in conflict resource analysis, adaptation strategies to climate crisis impacts, and the role that governance and social cohesion plays in the prevention and mitigation of conflict, radicalization and instability. She is a former civil servant for the U.S Government and worked for USAID in the Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) Bureau. Ms. Wood served as the USAID liaison for the State Department’s Office for the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, now the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. She worked on the USG Fragile States Strategy and the Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework and served as a Conflict Specialist for USAID’s Office of Conflict Mitigation and Management as well as a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Specialist and Transition Planner for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. 

Ms. Wood also has done extensive research and implementation of alternative solution systems for community development and planning in countries around the world. These solution systems are community-led planning processes that focus on access and equity as essential components of recovery in complex crisis environments. Many of these approaches have focused on renewable and alternative energy systems, community based conservation, local food production, land tenure systems, and carbon recovery and sequestration efforts as tools to strengthen complex systems in collapse (social, political, and economic). She has worked in Indonesia (Papua and Aceh), South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Northern Uganda, Cambodia, East Timor, Yemen, Iraq, Thailand, Myanmar and several other fragile and recovering states.

Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing

Event 5: Monday, May 4, 5:30 PM - 8 PM - Webinar

Revolutionary Resilience: Creating a Different Future

With the understanding of the impacts of human decisions for the planet, explore the intersections of justice, land, and life. Work together to envision and create “what could be” in terms of a just future in the Upper Valley and beyond.

Watch the Recording of Event 5 and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

See More Series Resources


Carrying Czech roots and an upbringing on the Mississippi River, Mindy Blank first moved to Vermont in 2008 and currently resides in Bethel. She believes the root issue of the climate crisis is disconnection, and the industrialization of basic human needs has inspired her work to prioritize building regenerative culture to shift power with community-scale and individual empowerment at the core of climate action. Mindy is the Executive Director of Community Resilience Organizations (CROs), a nonprofit that assists communities to design and implement projects that increase resilience and leverage their place-based strengths by becoming increasingly “community sufficient.” She earned a Masters degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, taught at the former Green Mountain College, and worked as an Energy Analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris developing processes for governments to systematically decentralize electric grids.


Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing 

Event 6: Sunday, May 17, 3:30 PM - 6 PM - Webinar 

Fertile Ground: Reclaiming Power and Possibility

This culminating event will bring us together to reflect on the power of natural systems and community collaboration. Hear from a panel of Upper Valley farmers about their experiences and decisions during this time of transformation. Then, a group discussion will focus on existing efforts to build resilience and potential new efforts for the Upper Valley.

Watch the Recording of Event 6 and please fill out our survey so that we can keep improving.

Presenters on the Farmer Panel

Chuck Wooster grew up far from the land and wandered around in exile until 1995 when, fleeing a desk job in Boston, he apprenticed for a year at Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Caretaker was one of the first organic farms and one of the first CSAs in the U.S., and by the time the harvest was over, Chuck was smitten. In 1999, Chuck and his wife Sue purchased Sunrise Farm, and in 2000, he started Sunrise Farm CSA with his brother Bruce (who has since gone on to start Picadilly Farm in Winchester, New Hampshire, with his wife Jenny.)

In 2012, Chuck dropped the last of his other day jobs and took up farming at Sunrise full-time. Since then, the CSA has expanded to 350 members and the farm produces chicken, lamb, maple syrup, and firewood and lumber. As Sunrise continues to grow and thrive, Chuck has maintained a variety of other interests, including as a freelancer for the Valley News in Lebanon, New Hampshire and as an advisor to Vital Communities’ Valley Food & Farm.

Madi Whaley is a food and plant enthusiast residing in Vermont's Upper Valley, on Abenaki land. They work for Permaculture Solutions, LLC: a business centered around permaculture designs, installations, and education. They are also involved in a start-up heirloom corn and traditional foods project called Moon & Stars Arepas. Madi is originally from Northern California, where they spent summers and college years volunteering and doing work-trades at organic farms, as well as experimental permaculture and eco-building sites. They moved to the Upper Valley in the spring of 2019, where they worked as a farmhand at Cedar Circle Farm, which is transitioning toward regenerative agriculture. They are passionate about building healthy soils and resilient food systems, and are also engaged in climate action, food justice, and LGBTQIA+ efforts. Cooking, lay herbalism, and stories are among their other interests.

Niko Horster performs the daily management of Broad Acres Farm - Shire Beef in Vershire, VT: a beef ranching business with 65-90 head of cattle including a cow/calf operation and finishing beef on grass using holistic management and carbon sequestration. Niko has been involved in countless initiatives in the Upper Valley over the past decades including various non-profit organizations, construction companies, and intellectual and community-building pursuits. Niko is a member of the Vermont Grass Farmers Association and leads workshops for the Vermont Pasture Network; he also mentors young farmers in grazing management and in food systems.

Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice

Our mission is to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community

partners to organize for economic justice and human rights. We gather the farmworker community to discuss

and analyze shared problems and to envision collective solutions. Through this ongoing investment in leadership development, members deepen their skills in community education and organizing for long-term systemic change.

From this basis our members have defined community problems as a denial of rights and dignity and have

prioritized building a movement to secure these fundamental human rights to: 1) Dignified Work and Quality

Housing; 2) Freedom of Movement and Access to Transportation; 3) Freedom from discrimination; 4) Access to

Health Care.

Learn more about the Milk With Dignity Hannaford Campaign

Learn more about the Health and Safety Conditions on Vermont Dairy Farms

Further Reading Suggestions From Chelsea Green Publishing


Series organizer: Cat Buxton. Email Cat at

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See More Series Resources

Six Events

Event 1: Sunday, March 22, 3:30 PM - 6 PM 

Earth’s Cycles: Foundations of Energy and Matter

Watch the Recording of Event 1


Event 2: Sunday, April 5, 3:30 PM - 6 PM 

Historical Landscape: Learning from the Past

Watch the Recording of Event 2


Event 3: Monday, April 13, 5:30 PM - 8 PM

Here and Now: Human Impacts

Watch the Recording of Event 3 


Event 4: Sunday, April 26, 3:30 PM - 6 PM

Systems Collapse: Climate and Ecological Crises

Watch the Recording of Event 4


Event 5: Monday, May 4, 5:30 PM - 8 PM

Revolutionary Resilience: Creating a Different Future

Watch the Recording of Event 5


Event 6: Sunday, May 17, 3:30 PM - 6 PM

Fertile Ground: Reclaiming Power and Possibility

Watch the Recording of Event 6