Thanks to Jen Burton and Mark Woodward for coming to Jericho and sharing their story of organizing, planning and building a community oven in Johnson, VT. The oven has been up and running since last fall and has been a fun and tasty way to bring families and community together. Jen explained: “The oven is intended to provide a gathering place for community baking (bring your own items to bake), community pizza nights, private functions, and other public uses. This year, the oven was used to make 35 pizzas for the Town Meeting Day potluck.”
Jen continued, saying this was a yearlong project that she championed. She organized the effort to plan, found funding, worked with town officials and brought the project to the building point. Some of the fine details included: getting letters of support from town agencies, deriving the plans for the oven and roof structure, confirming there would be insurance coverage and writing several grants for funding.
Once the organization was completed, Mark took the lead to see that the construction of the oven was orchestrated. He worked with many local volunteers, including Jen, to erect the shelter, then assisted with the building of the stove with the hired stone mason. The rocks were sourced locally from a rock pit nearby. The construction project took most of the fall to complete. Lining up volunteers for multiple weekends and getting the stone mason on-site to work around his primary work hours made the timing a challenge.
Take a look at their Facebook page (Johnson Community Wood Fired Oven) that includes pictures of all the construction phases. Everyone is welcome to use the wood fired oven in Johnson: you have to fill out a facilities use form from the Johnson Town offices. Since the oven can get to hundreds of degrees, you will have to read the use policies that include how to be safe while using the oven.
Jen and Mark shared many stories about their project, and felt that all the sweat equity that they put into the project was worth it. They also pointed out there were no tax payer dollars used in the building of the oven, quite a big grassroots effort. The big test will be the first summer months, which are coming up, with the oven in operation. They are hopeful, since they built it, people will come and use it!
Mark and Jen will announce future “oven” events and let Transition Town Jericho know. TTJ will forward the notifications to folks on its email list so they can join in.
Did you know…that every town in Vermont has an emergency management director? …that 223 towns in Vermont were impacted by Irene? …your dishwasher is a great way to waterproof valuables in your home in case of a flood?
These and other facts were presented by Max Kennedy from Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) who spoke at our fourth Monday (February 26) transition town meeting. Hailing from Underhill himself, Max spoke to a small group of people ranging from Bolton to Underhill and in between. Since things get more bureaucratic and expensive as you get bigger, i.e. the national guard and FEMA, Max said it’s best to solve emergencies at the local level. VEM is there to aid communities in this process.
Max informed us that all Vermont towns now have an emergency management director (EMD) as mandated by state law. In Jericho that person is Todd Odit, aka town administrator. Max said the EMD role is often held by the town administrator by default, or even the fire chief. The latter is least desirable since the fire chief is a first responder and the EMD is largely a coordinator role.
Max said that while emergency preparedness gets all the hype, it is mitigation, or reducing long term risk, that is vitally important. Indeed, VEM endeavors to promote mitigation efforts such as building culverts, burying power lines, avoiding building in floodplains. You might call mitigation the preventative medicine of emergency management.
“What energizes communities to be better prepared?” someone asked. Max said that experiencing a disaster firsthand is the best prep. After a disaster, VEM will come into a community and do what he called a ‘hot wash’ asking, “What happened? What can we do better next time?” He cited Swanton as the most recent example, a town still dealing with the repercussions of severe flooding in January.
In order to build a more resilient community you must start with preparedness among individuals and families. From there, a community can better organize and mobilize itself. Max cited a couple towns in Vermont that have begun mobilizing on a community level. In Bethel they have the “Citizen Plus” program which utilizes public education, geographic divisioning, and a volunteer network. In Duxbury they’ve established zones and presiding zone captains, who ultimately report back to the EMD.
Max mentioned helpful resources including Vermont 211 (vermont211.org) for information and referral. “They have answers for any situation,” he said. He also recommended Vermont Alert (vtalert.gov) for emergency notifications; everything from severe weather to traffic conditions to public health alerts. VEM itself offers ongoing trainings and provides a handy little notebook entitled “Family Emergency Preparedness” which offers practical advice for all situations, a must-have for all households.