Amie Schiller has been taking the lead on her “Vermont Village Greens” report for the past year. If you think that’s a small task, think again. She acts as the director, editor, findings complier, researcher, and ultimately writer for the report. The project is relatively long term and complex, so we decided to speak with Amy about what exactly this undertaking is and how she’s going about it.
What is the Vermont Village Greens Project?
In cooperation with VT UCF and VT Department of Housing and Community Development, Schilller’s been working to develop a comprehensive report on the overall benefit of Vermont’s village greens and quantify how much they’re contributing to communities. She said the project has basically been in five parts:
1. Measure village green’s carbon intake using a program called i-Tree.
The i-Tree program translates carbon intake into a monetary value, allowing the public to see how the trees on the green are actually saving the town money and cleaning the air simultaneously. This is done with the help of UVM students in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.
2. Research history of the towns and their greens.
Schiller researches initial town industries, how it became established, how the original green came to be (if information is available), and where it lies now.
3. Create landscape design maps.
Students visit the greens, and create maps noting the condition of the greens. Additionally, they create maps which note future opportunities that towns could use to fully utilize their space. This is done with the help of a Landscape Design class at UVM.
4. Administer ethnographic survey.
Students administer an ethnographic survey on the Barre village green to find out why people visit the green and for which purposes they are using it. This was done with the help of a Community Based Natural Resource Management class at UVM.
5. Photograph village green infrastructure.
Schiller visited greens three times in varying seasons to document through photos the condition of the existing infrastructure (benches, play structures, gazebos, etc.)
In short, Schiller explains, “my project is basically a collaborative effort to highlight the traditional, historical, economic, and social importance of these greens in Vermont in the past and into the future.”
Taking on a project of this size doesn’t come without its own set of challenges and rewards.
From coordinating the many different groups that have been involved, to helping them with their research, on top of conducting her own independent research, Schiller’s had her hands full. She then works to compile everyone’s work together seamlessly into the report she’s been working on for 7 months. Despite the extensive travel time, writing, and research, Schiller maintains that she loves the work and finds it rewarding knowing that when it’s done it will be a useful and interesting tool for towns and an educational piece for Vermonters.
Historical Exploration from the UVM Library to the Town of Middlebury
Schiller recounts a memory from her research that made her smile in Middlebury.
“About a year ago in September, I was holed up in the Bailey Howe Special Collections room doing research on the Middlebury village green, when I ran into some information that told me that there was a historic post located within the Middlebury village green. Apparently the story is that that post marks the original location of Galamiel Painter's (the first town sheriff) whipping post and stocks. Back in the day, any crime committed by early townspeople was reprimanded by the town sheriff, where he would either physically punish you by flogging you in the center of town for all to see, or by sticking you in the stocks to be made fun of, jeered at, and to be thrown rotten fruit at. A spectacle, I guess. Anyway- I thought this was really funny, and showed up to look for the post (which I was pretty sure wasn’t in existence anymore) on the green. Sure enough, it WAS there!” (Schiller’s photo of the post can be found above)
One Vermonter’s View of Village Greens- Changed for Good
Schiller describes what's she's learned through this process:
"Growing up in Brattleboro, I knew my town common as a place where we would end the strolling of the heifers parade at the beginning of each summer. I didn’t really understand that these greens have a history attached to them, and I didn’t really understand that they’re an important mechanism to our small towns- encouraging us to gather and celebrate small town life. I’ve learned that Village Greens are really pretty unique to the New England Area, and even more specific to Vermont. We often have farmer’s markets on them, they are often located near country stores/in the centers of towns. Although most people take these areas for granted as places to read a book or eat lunch, they actually have a real significance in our small Vermont towns."
Thank you, Amie for sharing your work and stories with us, and good luck on finishing the report! We’re so excited to see the finished product.