Visitors to Vermont are always impressed by how “unspoiled” it is. Well, we take good care of our little state and we appreciate the compliment, but it’s not quite accurate. Vermont isn’t unspoiled in the sense of a true wilderness. It’s a working landscape, shaped by the push-and-pull of people and natural forces.
As Earth Day approaches this week, I believe that doing right for our planet doesn’t mean that we leave it untouched, but rather that we use it gently. We take care of it, so it can take care of us.
That’s the approach we’ve followed for generations in Vermont where farmers cleared the fertile fields of stones (tough work, even today), and used those same stones to build walls that border each field. Nature responded by growing trees along those walls, where the mower couldn’t get at them, resulting in long graceful corridors of trees.
People built covered bridges over our many rushing rivers; those sheltered spaces became homes to swallows and the occasional owl. People cut into the hillsides to quarry granite and marble, nature filled the quarries with cold clear water good for swimming. And the maple trees that blaze with color every autumn, from the bottom of the hill to the crown? Well, they had a little help—over time, farmers harvested the other species of trees, but left the sugar-bearing maples standing.
In addition to being storekeepers, we also manage some farmland, and we’ve seen this interaction firsthand. Done slowly and done thoughtfully, it’s good for the land and good for the people. We live in and on the land, but we try never to exploit it.
The next time you visit Vermont, or even if you live here, we hope you continue to marvel at our picturesque scenery, not only because it is beautiful, but because it was grown from the land and its people, one influencing the other, but neither in control. Vermont stands as an example of how people and nature can grow better together to create a legacy that continues to nurture and inspire every generation.
Eliot and Gardner Orton
For the Orton Family, Proprietors of The Vermont Country Store