Kelly and Kathleen Norris launched Homestead Hops two years ago at their farm in Starksboro. Courtesy photo

‘Hopping’ on board: Vermont begins to rebuild its hops industry

Dormant for a century, Vermont’s hops industry is growing again. Encouraged by Vermont’s strong and expanding craft beer industry, as well a heightened emphasis on locally sourced products, growers see a potentially strong market for hops. While the state’s hops renaissance is in its fledgling stages and growers face obstacles, interest is on the rise. The University of Vermont Extension supports that interest and offers resources to farmers considering a commercial hops yard. UVM presented the eighth annual Vermont Hop Conference at the Sheraton Burlington in late February, drawing nearly 200 participants.

Free yourself of some investment-related taxes

Tax Freedom Day generally falls on a day in the later part of this month. This is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay off its total tax bill for the year, according to the calculations made by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. So, you may want to use Tax Freedom Day to think about ways you can liberate yourself from some of the investment-related taxes you may incur. Of course, Tax Freedom Day is something of a fiction, in practical terms, because most people pay their taxes throughout the year via payroll deductions. Also, you may not mind paying your share of taxes, because your tax dollars are used in many ways — law enforcement, food safety, road maintenance, public education, and so on — that benefit society.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea (1)

Book review: The hard work behind the top dog

“Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” by Alyssa Mastromonaco (with Lauren Oyler), 2017, Twelve, $27, 256 pages
Your boss is a VIP: a very important person. Nothing gets done without approval from the executive suite and nothing is unnoticed. There’s a finger on the pulse of your company at all times, which is probably how The Boss got to the top. And in the new book “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” by Alyssa Mastromonaco (with Lauren Oyler), you’ll see what it’s like to work for a guy who’s more than just the president of a corporation. Born in the mid-1970s and raised in small-town Vermont, Mastromonaco says she was independent early on and marched to her own drummer, but wasn’t particularly political unless it was “cool.” Nevertheless, one summer between college semesters, she interned for Bernie Sanders and discovered what she wanted to do with her life.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo

Syrup and sweet sounds: Maple producers keep an eye out for birds

The mission of Audubon Vermont, a chapter the National Audubon Society, is to protect birds, wildlife and their habitat through education, conservation, stewardship and action. With the Bird-Friendly Maple Project, maple producers are getting involved. Audubon Vermont has undertaken a conservation partnership with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association by developing the project to enhance the habitat quality of Vermont’s maple sugar bushes and promote pure maple products. “Audubon Vermont has been working on forest bird conservation as one of its main programs for the past 10 years,” said Steve Hagenbuch, a conservation biologist with Audubon Vermont. “The sugar bushes, or forests managed primarily for maple sap production, also provide the summer nesting habitat for many bird species.

Mount Snow in the southern Green Mountains is one of seven northeastern resorts that utilize the Peak Explorer Pass as a way to gain market share. Photo: Mount Snow

Pass perfect: Deals aplenty for skiers ready to commit

“Historically, resorts have played their cards close to the vest when it comes to season passes.”
Bonnie MacPherson, Okemo’s director of public relations
Game changers abound at Vermont mountain resorts this year, but the best one for all who ski or ride in the Green Mountain State may be new and creative season pass offers. Thanks to ski resort consolidations and partnerships, there are so many multi-area and combination season passes that it can be a dilemma for snow-sport aficionados to decide which pass, or passes, to buy. There are more options, benefits and specific offers — and in many cases lower prices, especially if one purchases an early-bird pass or one of a number of combination passes. This change in the season-pass landscape for next year may also benefit the resorts themselves, by reinvigorating the skier and rider market. According to the National Ski Areas Association, skier visits have averaged 56.5 million for the past decade, a reflection of a flat market and the aging out of the baby-boomer generation that fueled the sport’s growth in the 1950s and 1960s.

Vicky Tebbetts

Tebbetts steps into Travel and Recreation leadership role

“We all have a bit of tourist in us, and enjoy being hosts and sharing that passion for where we live.”
Vicky Tebbetts, Travel and Recreation chairwoman
The Vermont Travel and Recreation Council recently turned to longtime member Vicky Tebbetts as its new chairwoman. A resident of Cabot, Tebbetts brings about eight years of experience with the council, as well as professional experience as an attorney, writer, marketing and communications specialist and entrepreneur. Tebbetts said she is looking forward to supporting economic development through promotion of the Vermont brand. “The Vermont brand is the backbone of our economy,” Tebbetts said. “It’s existed and been very robust for decades now.

The new Burke Hotel and Conference Center is open 365 days a year. Photo by Adam Lukowski.

The new Burke: A mountain on the move

Burke Mountain Ski Resort boasts some legendary terrain and a bodacious glade system. Many of the country’s best competitors sharpened their skills on the mountain, which is home to Burke Mountain Academy. This leading ski academy graduated 33 Olympians and 138 national team athletes, including Mikaela Shiffrin, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in slalom and current Women’s World Cup overall title leader. But for all the ski resort’s pluses — 2,011-foot vertical, diversity of trails, high-speed lifts, separate novice and learning areas, location near interstates 91 and 93 — Burke has remained something of an undiscovered jewel. That may be changing, thanks to the new Burke Hotel and Conference Center and to Burke recently being designated as an official U.S. Ski Team Development Site, the nation’s first.

Gov. Phil Scott is flanked by Bourne's Energy President Peter Bourne (left) and Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director Olivia Campbell Andersen at a ribbon-cutting to dedicate a 50-ton bulk wood-pellet silo at the company's North Hyde Park premises. Courtesy photo

Full circle: Renewable energy pays dividends

HYDE PARK — What goes around, comes around. The old adage is true of efforts by northern Vermont energy suppliers Bourne’s Energy to invest in sustainable energy. It is also true of early connections between the company and Gov. Phil Scott, who renewed old acquaintances when he visited the North Hyde Park company Monday. Scott was the guest of honor at a ribbon-cutting at the energy company, dedicating a 50-ton bulk wood-pellet silo that will greatly increase access in northern Vermont to an affordable, sustainable fuel source expected to help lower Vermont’s carbon footprint. It was also the chance for Scott to celebrate old ties with a company where he worked as a delivery driver 30 years ago.

Julianna Baggott

Author to lead VCFA writing faculty

MONTPELIER — Vermont College of Fine Arts has appointed critically acclaimed author Julianna Baggott as faculty director of the college’s residential Master of Fine Arts in writing and publishing program. Baggott is also an experienced educator. “I’m thrilled to have Julianna join us as faculty director for our MFA in writing and publishing program,” said VCFA President Tom Greene. “Many of us in the writing community have been in awe of Julianna for her incredible range and singular talent as an author. She is not only an amazing novelist who writes for adults and children, but is also an accomplished essayist and poet.”
Baggott has written and published more than 20 books under her own name, as well as the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode.

New laws affect opioid prescribing practices

For several years now, we’ve heard both nationally and at the state level that we are living through an unprecedented opioid epidemic. As part of the effort to combat this crisis, the federal government has taken aim at opioid prescribing practices. In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide best-practice recommendations for primary-care doctors. In Vermont, the Legislature passed legislation, signed into law in June 2016, which put in place a number of new regulations aimed at combating opioid abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 20 percent of patients visiting doctor’s offices with noncancer pain symptoms or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed an opioid medication.