For Curt Alpeter of Charlotte, everything ties back to his love of Vermont, a state he moved to after college without a job but with a passion for the landscape.
Since then, he has devoted a good deal of time to helping preserve that landscape and giving back to the state he loves.
Alpeter’s current endeavor is Runamok Maple, a company with the goal to create a national brand for maple syrup by changing the way people use Vermont’s iconic product.
“It’s been very limited in how it’s been used in the past, but we’re out to try new culinary approaches like desserts, glazes, and cocktails,” Alpeter said.
Runamok Maple is a welcome departure for Alpeter, whose previous work at IDX as vice president of sales and special assignments and at MyWebGrocer as executive vice president required a great deal of travel.
Alpeter switched gears from a corporate life to a more entrepreneurial venture out of a desire to directly affect his community. “Before hanging up my cleats, I really wanted to be part of a company that not only was physically based here, but had deep roots and did business in the state,” he said.
After only 18 months in business, Runamok has its products sold in over 500 stores. They will soon be moving their plant into the old Scrabble tile factory in Fairfax.
In 1999, Alpeter and his wife Lynn purchased Staige Hill Farm, which was one of three old dairy farms on a dirt road in East Charlotte. “Our intent was to get closer to the land and where our food came from,” he said. “We raised chickens and eggs and pigs and sheep for a number of years for ourselves and our neighbors. We wanted our kids to get involved in small-scale farming.”
These days, Alpeter has switched from farming the land to managing it for songbirds, which involves eliminating invasive species, planting mast trees which provide food, and building and growing habitats to encourage breeding.
He dove into these practices after Audubon Vermont approached him, saying his property was habitat for the rare golden-winged warbler, a bird he had never heard of. Staige Hill Farm is now part of an Audubon program called the Champlain Valley Bird Initiative, which provides advice and support that allows him to further manage the land for his avian neighbors.
As a result of the CVBI, Alpeter became interested in Audubon’s overall mission and projects. He joined the organization’s board of directors in 2013 and this will mark his third year as chair.
“Birds are certainly an interest of mine,” Alpeter said, “but Audubon’s work is broader. It’s about Vermont and protecting the environment.”
His priorities as Audubon’s chair have included building the board of directors and expanding the donor and support network throughout the state.
Alpeter’s involvement with Audubon is much like an earlier experience with a nonprofit. A year after moving to Charlotte, he landed on the board of the Charlotte Land Trust, in part because he had just conserved a portion of the farm.
“That was one of my first forays into conservation and volunteer work,” he recalled. Alpeter served on that board for six years and still maintains ties to the organization.
Today, Alpeter is an empty-nester with two kids in college. Lynn Alpeter is co-owner of Yoga Roots in Shelburne. He says he tries to balance taking care of the land, his job, his family, and his work at Audubon. “I try to do a few things well instead of tons of things marginally,” he said, “but everything ties back to Vermont and this amazing place we live in. That’s the core of my efforts.”