We are pleased to share remarks from our June 8, 2023 Steward Reception at the Coach Barn

Board chair Andrew Meyer welcomed everyone on behalf of the board and expressed appreciation for the generous support of our stewards. He talked about his own journey of growing a business in Hardwick, Vermont, and the values he shares with Shelburne Farms. He introduced Shelburne Farms president Alec Webb

Alec’s remarks part 1

Thank you Andrew and thank you all for being here. We sure have come a long way from the days when our steward reception was a handful of people that could fit into the library up at the Inn! 

It would be amazing if we could somehow make visible all of the different farm community ties and relationships among us here tonight.  Of course, what brings us all together is Shelburne Farms, as an educational idea and a beautiful place for renewal and inspiration.  And Shelburne Farms wouldn’t be here without your love and support!

A year ago, we were gathering at the Breeding Barn for the special occasion to mark and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nonprofit.  And then just six weeks later, as most of you know, my next oldest brother Marshall, who played such an important role in the life of the farm, died unexpectedly in early August.  All of you who knew Marshall, can appreciate why he feels so present here this evening and will be a thread through my remarks.  

When the nonprofit organization was formed in 1972, with the growing development pressures on the land and the dire condition of the historic buildings at that time, it was natural for people who were looking on to assume that the nonprofit was created in order to “save Shelburne Farms”.  

In fact, it was created to address environmental and social concerns in Vermont and beyond.  The big idea was to transform and use the farm as a resource to help make the world a better place through education.  Shelburne Farms is a means to this greater end.  And that is why we are on this journey together.  

Marshall’s death really punctuates the important transition time we are in as we build on the work of the first 50 years of the nonprofit to lay the groundwork for success in its next 50 years.  This is a big part of the strategic planning and organizational development that our board and staff are fully engaged in now.

Every summer Marshall would usually team up with our UVM field naturalist partner Walter Poleman for our “Shore Explore” program.  Together they would guide a group along the shoreline with the exposed ledges providing their classroom for learning about the interplay of geologic forces and natural systems and human activity over time. It was an opportunity for connecting with the fact that going back over 10,000 years, we are on the homelands of the Winooskik band of the Abenaki; it was an opportunity for experiencing gratitude for this land lying between two beautiful mountain ranges; for appreciating rock, soil, water, and wildlife; and for marveling at the beauty of the ever-changing play of light on the lake and clouds.

The story of the land here is long and complex, and we are all now part of stewarding it into the future.

We are cultivating joy and wonder in young people. We are cultivating a love of place and meaningful learning. We are doing our best to cultivate change for a healthy and just world, rooted in stewardship and community.  

I hope you’ve had a chance to meet some of our education team who are here tonight in the West Hall and who bring our mission to life every day.  I’d like to invite our Executive Vice President and Program Director, Megan Camp, to say a few words about the programs that are based here at the Coach Barn and are enriched by our entire farm campus.   

Megan’s remarks 

I’ll echo Alec in saying I hope you have a chance to meet some of our amazingly talented team of educators!

It’s exciting to be working with our friends at SAS Architects on plans to repurpose this incredible historic structure, the Coach Barn, as an inspiring convening center and the home for the Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools, including the National Farm to School Leadership program. 

The Institute is the hub for all of our professional learning programs and a growing international network of educators and organizations committed to advancing Education for Sustainability both locally and globally. Last year nearly 1500 educators participated in our professional learning programs virtually and in person. 

In partnership with UVM, we are offering the first of its kind graduate certificate program in Education for Sustainability in the U.S. 

You may ask:  What are sustainable schools? Beyond bricks and mortar, they’re places where students build their ability to make a difference and are challenged to apply what they learn to improve wellbeing in their schools and communities.

But speaking of bricks and mortar. Standing here in the courtyard I often wonder - if only these walls could talk…I am sure they would have a lot of interesting stories to share over the last 122 years!  

However, tonight, I will share with you a sampling of the conversations they will hear this summer. 

In two weeks we will kick off our summer series with the Farm to School Institute.  School teams from across the country will be exploring the following questions together.. 

How can food be a lens for building community, learning, and having fun? 

What is a just, sustainable food system? 

How do we best feed all our children fresh and nutritious meals so that they are ready to learn?

Next up in early July - Project Seasons for Young Learners; Cultivating Joy and Wonder: 

How do we cultivate curiosity and a sense of wonder in our youngest learners?

How can nature be our teacher?

How can the forests near our school be used as an outdoor classroom?

Where does our food come from? Who grew it? How is it grown?

And in the following weeks of the Education for Sustainability certificate courses, teachers will be sharing:

How can I make the big ideas of sustainability (like cycles, systems, diversity, interdependence) come alive be relevant and meaningful for my students?

How can I expand the walls of my classroom into the community?

How do I integrate climate literacy into my curriculum?

How can we construct a sense of hope for our students to replace the growing sense of fear? 

How do I support authentic student voice?

How do I continue to learn, grow and lead as an educator?

Education for Sustainability is a hopeful perspective on the purpose of education. 

We believe learning is the foundation for creating healthy and just communities and a more thriving world for all. Educators and youth are at the heart of this work, and we believe sharing and learning from each other will transform not just schools, but the world. 

Thank you, and now I’ll hand it back to Alec.

Alec’s remarks part 2

Thanks, Megan. Getting back to bricks and mortar, the planning and design work with our architects that Megan mentioned is leading to a major renovation project of the Coach Barn to begin later this year.  

There are some architectural plans, including a great video walkthrough of the project you can see in the West Hall. The project includes much needed facility improvements to preserve the barn and enable energy efficient, year round program and convening activities.  

We are planning significant fire safety upgrades, including a sprinkler system and new power service, along with new wiring and lighting throughout the building.  A net zero, geothermal heating and cooling system will be installed.  And since local food and supporting a healthy food system is so central to everything we do, we are also planning to convert the former boiler room into a fabulous teaching kitchen.  And we envision turning this courtyard into an equally beautiful outdoor space for convening. 

With continued fundraising success, we are tremendously excited about the future programs this extraordinary building will make possible.  

Speaking of funding, we are fortunate to have multiple activities and sources of revenue that advance our mission.  We are even more fortunate for the charitable support that provides about a third of our $12 million annual operating and program budget.  Last year we had 4,600 annual contributors and a record 643 stewards from 43 states and 5 countries.  As our stewards, you all provided over 80% of our annual fund.  That’s so amazing - thank you!

In addition to the lifeblood of annual support, this growing educational organization with its extensive campus facilities and 1,400 acre land base, still requires significant capital support to deliver on our mission for the long haul. And in light of that, we are grateful that we have an increasing number of legacy circle members. 

Last June, I shared that we are in the quiet phase of our Campaign for Shelburne Farms. I’m pleased to report we are now at just over $42 million raised towards our goal of $50 million.  That includes special gifts we’ve received, many in memory of Marshall,  to support our Climate Action goal to become net zero in our on-site operations by Earth Day 2028.   

Many of you have already participated in wonderful ways in the leadership phase of the campaign.  If you are interested in learning more and being part of this effort, we would love to hear from you.

When we’re closer to our goal, we’ll move into the final community phase of the campaign. At that point we will reach out to all of our current annual donors at all levels, as well as others who we hope will want to join us in helping reach the goal and to broaden our base of support for the future!   

We are excited about meeting the challenges and realizing the opportunities ahead.  

This is our annual chance to say thank you in person.  As always, we couldn’t be more grateful for your support and encouragement. None of this would be possible without you. 

Thanks again for coming and for being part of the Shelburne Farms community and enjoy the rest of our evening together!