Beyond buying Vermont kale and ales, why not consider shopping locally for your outdoor gear?
Spring is a time when Vermonters connect to the land and celebrate all things local in a way few other states can or do. We sign up for CSAs, start to shop at farmers markets and explore the new summer ales, the brewery down the road releases.
Which got me to thinking, why don’t we take the same “local first” approach to buying our outdoor gear?
Don’t get me wrong: many of you do. In fact, in our most recent survey, we found that more than 82 percent of our readers buy their gear from a local outdoors shop.
But what gear do you buy? And do you seek out Vermont brands? Last winter in our December issue we featured seven up and coming apparel brands in our article “Just Sew Stories.” These were all Vermont start-ups ranging from Mana Threads active wear to Kaden’s mountain bike apparel for women. We also listed more than 30 other Vermont brands.
Recently, the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance has emerged to help network, grow and raise awareness of the diverse brands, large and small, that help make Vermont a leader in outdoor recreation.
“We’re working to educate Vermonters about outdoor recreation and engage businesses in growing our state’s vibrant outdoor recreation economy,” says Josh Pombar, chair of VOBA and the Marketing Director of Turtle Fur. Executive Director Kelly Ault added: “VOBA is dedicated to strengthening, expanding, attracting, and retaining outdoor recreation economy businesses in Vermont.”
As states such as Colorado and Utah have focused on growing their outdoor recreation sectors, Vermont has an opportunity to highlight and support the many businesses that do business in the state, as well as to attract new ones.
Businesses supporting VOBA range from apparel manufacturers such as Skida and Turtle Fur, to retailers such as Outdoor Gear Exchange and WND&WVS, to recreation facilities such as Bolton Valley and Trapp Family Lodge. Vermont Sports is a member, as are a number of other media companies.
VOBA formed following a January 2018 recommendation from Governor Scott’s Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, or VOREC, and in June, the state, working with VOBA will help bring a small cluster of emerging Vermont brands to Outdoor Retailer, the giant tradeshow of outdoor products in Denver.
“Together, these businesses are an important sector for our Vermont lifestyle and our economy,” says Pombar. Nationwide, the outdoor recreation industry accounts for 2.2 percent of the nation’s GDP and, according to a report released by OutdoorIndustry.org, “American consumers spend more on outdoor recreation than they do on pharmaceuticals and fuel.”
And the more we spend those dollars locally, the more we support brands that also contribute to organizations such as the Catamount Trail Association, the Green Mountain Club, the Vermont Mountain Biking Association.
In other words, there’s an entire local ecosystem that we can support if we shop locally—not just for kale and ales but also for your bike kit or other gear.