The 2011 Summit

Who was there? | 2011 Summit Schedule | 2011 Speaker bios 2013 Summit information

On June 1-3, 2011, more than 250 professionals and engaged citizens from New England and beyond gathered in Brattleboro for the first Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit: an intensive exploration of ways to build healthy, thriving local economies while encouraging, mentoring and supporting a new generation of activists, entrepreneurs and engaged citizens.


Here are some of the responses we received as part of the post-Summit survey after the 2011 Summit:

I applaud you for organizing one of THE best conferences I have attended in a long time. I believe that you have carved out an excellent niche of a true sustainability summit. The speakers were top draw, nationally recognized leaders. It was an all around excellent experience. I took away more in depth knowledge of topics I am interested in met and connected with many like-minded people. Bravo! Cannot wait ’til next year.

Great connections! Loved the long lunch breaks where serendipitous meetings took place.

I liked the variety of tracks and since this was the first time I attended such a conference, I found it encouraging that people are acting to seek out ways to live in what will be a very different world. This movement from the ground up is positive and I can see where it will become a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for all your work putting it together!

Having just attended several other environmentally oriented conferences, I found this quite refreshing in the breadth and integration between different aspects of sustainability. It made me feel at home!

I liked the connections between the personal, political, cultural, agricultural, economic, etc. I think this helped to make this conference unique.

I think the summit was superbly organized and run. Congratulations!

Summit background:

The summit took place in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, Wed.-Fri. June 1-3. Strolling of the Heifers, best known for its annual agriculturally-themed parade and festival, organized the Summit in partnership with Marlboro College’s Graduate School and World Learning as part of the tenth annual Strolling of the Heifers celebration.

Who was invited: Business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, government officials, foundation and non-profit leaders, community leaders, engaged citizens! We invited attendees representing all of the many organizations, businesses, educational institutions, funders and public entities who are working to make a resilient future an emergent reality in New England.

In addition to the plenary session speakers, the Summit offered many breakout sessions organized into five topical tracks: food and agriculture; energy and resources; economic issues (business, finances and entrepreneurship); education for sustainability; and quality of life. In the breakout sessions, conferees learned about diverse topics such as using technology for sustainability, reinventing agriculture, community-scaled renewable energy systems, and how to tap sources of funding for sustainable enterprises.

In an intensive schedule of workshops, discussions, and presentations, thought leaders, social investors and veterans of social enterprise and entrepreneurship shared their knowledge and experiences, make new connections, identify new opportunities and build new collaborations, partnerships and networks.

Networking opportunites and “unconference” sessions — there was great deal of purposely unscheduled time, during which Summiteers could freely network, or post spontaneous sessions they want to lead. Areas were made available for larger and smaller unscheduled sessions — and they happened after hours in one of Brattleboro’s many friendly pubs and restaurants!

All this took place in Brattleboro, Vermont — centrally located in the heart of New England and long a center of progressive thinking and enlightened enterprise. The summit was part of the Tenth Annual Strolling of the Heifers, Brattleboro’s unique and world-famous celebration of Slow Life.

The Summit took place in various locations in downtown Brattleboro, including the Latchis Theatre, the River Garden, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center and Marlboro College Graduate Center. The summit attracted a total of 256 conferees from throughout the Northeast, including representatives of non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, funders and public entities working toward a resilient future for the region. During receptions and other informal networking sessions, the Summit offered opportunities for attendees to share their knowledge and experiences, make new connections, identify new opportunities and build new collaborations, partnerships and networks.

Why “slow living”? This simple phrase expresses the fundamental paradigm shift that is underway in this age. “Slow” encodes the transformative change from faster and cheaper to slower and better—where quality, community and the future matter. It’s about slowing down and becoming more mindful of our basic connection with land, place and people, taking the long view that builds a healthy, fulfilling way of life for the generations to come. It is about common good taking precedence over private gain. This gathering fored a “big tent” (or in Strolling terms, a “big barn”) where people and organizations from very diverse sectors can convene, share and mobilize in a supportive, convivial environment.

Slow Living builds economies and puts people to work by focusing on the socially-responsible and sustainable enterprises and community relationships that will matter in the future, rather than on the environmentally and socially destructive practices of the past. It grows from the strengths, people, resources and history of the region. It is about basing life on the wellbeing of nature and community, where wealth and money can recirculate locally, combining with innovation and entrepreneurship, to create jobs.

It’s time to make sustainability and resilience a mainstream movement. The summit explored the methods, tools and resources needed to build sustainability from the ground up. Online networking in the months prior to and after the summit fostered momentum for new connections and ideas and start to lay the framework for a comprehensive roadmap for creating a resilient future that can be used throughout the region and beyond.

The Summit represents one of several new initiatives by Strolling of the Heifers undertaken on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The Summit takes place Wednesday, June 1 through Friday June 3, just before the tenth annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend, which begins on Friday evening June 3 and runs through Sunday, June 5.

In addition to the Summit, the Stroll added the Farm & Food Short Film Festival on June 4, and the Tour de Heifer cycling event on June 5; and it held a farm and food business plan competition as a lead-up to the Summit. In recent years, the organization also launched a regional microloan fund for farmers, and pioneered a summer apprenticeship program placing youth in farm internships, which is being adopted by the Windham Regional Career Center as part of its new agricultural curriculum.