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Building Resilience at Vermont Youth Conservation Corps

The ability of people and land to bounce back from challenges – resilience – has been a steady theme in 2023. The VYCC community worked through difficulties and completed projects that improve the resilience of land and communities.  

Projects increase resiliency. 

Projects at Lake Carmi and Joe’s Pond; and in Highgate, Montpelier and Cambridge prepared land along streams and lakes to absorb the increased rainfall expected with climate change. At these sites, Water Quality crews constructed 59 check dams, five fords, two staircases, and two rain gardens. They also planted 3,700 native trees and shrubs which will help capture carbon dioxide as they grow, and whose roots will stabilize loose soil and help to prevent erosion. 

Work on the Farm in Richmond continues its long-term effort to improve the health of our soil after years of nutrient depletion. Building healthy soils is a proven strategy to sequester carbon and weather droughts and heavy rains. Food & Farm crews employed crop rotation, cover cropping, chickens on pasture, and reduced tillage systems to build resilience on 12 acres of certified organic fields.  

Further, Food & Farm crews made our community health and food systems more resilient by getting fresh, nutritious food to 418 families managing food insecurity and/or diet-related illness. Crews distributed the food they grew to 13 towns including Barre, Berlin, Burlington, Littleton (NH), Montpelier, Northfield, Newport, Plainfield, Richmond, St Johnsbury, South Burlington, Waterbury and Winooski. 

Forest Health projects made space for native and more climate-resilient trees to grow, improved habitat for birds and animals, and increased the overall health and resiliency of forests. Crews completed patch cuts, brush management, invasive species removal, and crop tree release in 12 Vermont communities including Dorset, Jeffersonville, Pownal, Providence Island, Putney, Richmond, Rochester, Shoreham, West Haven, Westminster, Wolcott, and Woodstock. 

Pro Forest Crew Leader Eva Tillett is an alumnus of two other youth corps. Eva reflects on her season with VYCC: “There was no busy work. Every project made a difference. Every project was intentional.” 

Members are taking new skills with them.  

In their next endeavors, Members can continue improving water quality, forest health, agricultural soil health, and community access to food.  

Eva and her crew (below left) completed Game of Logging levels one through four at the start of their season in April. She adds: “We just learned another new skill in early October: we learned how to use a grip hoist to approach hazard trees. The first one we did, in the training, took four hours. The one we did this week took 10 minutes. I was so proud of the crew for learning this new skill.” 

Members’ next steps 

As if it wasn’t enough to complete projects and gain skills to do more conservation work going forward, Members and Leaders also moved their career goals forward this year by earning credentials, college credits, and/or AmeriCorps Education Awards.  

Eva shares: “I’m leaving VYCC with a lot of certifications, new skills, and a better understanding of how a manager should operate.”