Mandy Snyder: “Andrea Stander Leads for Rural Vermont”

Andrea Stander is a champion for Vermonters, with a passion for supporting farmers (Rural Vermont, n.d.). Her contribution has been tremendous since setting foot in Vermont in 1997, with roles at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, The Vermont Council of the arts, Northern Forests Alliance, and Rural Vermont, a nonprofit where she has been the Executive Director for three years advocating for farmers and sustainable local food economies through legislative action. (Rural Vermont, n.d.) Despite her impressive resume, she is humble and down to earth, attractive qualities for a Vermont leader. Her grassroots approach to leadership — her ability to listen and to support as well as to educate and to challenge—has been successful in creating groundbreaking change in our state.

Stander demonstrates a Democratic leadership style where decisions “arise from consultation from the group and participation by them,” which is defined in opposition to Autocratic leadership where decisions “are centralized in the leader.”
(Lakshmi, 2008) In addition, she has strengths in the Facilitative style of leadership, in both the subsets; the Counselor and the Supporter.  According to Goodchild (2012, March 7b), the Counselor is defined as “somebody who has the belief that people can find their own solutions” and helps people to “feel seen and heard.”  At her current position at Rural Vermont, she creates opportunities for farmers who have been disenfranchised by high production costs and lowered prices to be heard. (Rural Vermont, n.d.) This year she launched “Small Farm Day,” which offered a platform for farmers to share their stories directly to legislators. (Rural Vermont, 2015, May 7) When Stander was Communications Director at the Vermont Arts Council in 2002, she organized community forums, and promoted them on VPR (2002 January). She said:

These forums are our way to hear directly from individuals what they think about the Arts Council, what they think about the arts in Vermont. This year, we’re going to ask people, ‘What do you need?’ in hopes of hearing ideas that we haven’t thought of yet.

Stander is clearly committed to full participation.

Stander also demonstrates the positive attributes of the other subset of the Facilitator style, the Supporter, which is somebody who demonstrates “strong support” and helps group members to “feel special.” (Goodchild, 2012, March 7b)  One way to make group members to feel special is through recognition of achievement. This year, Stander created the Golden Spoon Award and presented it to Lisa Kaiman for her effective activism. (Prairie, 2014, May 21)


[Kaiman accepts the Golden Spoon from Stander]. Prairie, C. [Photographer]. (2013, May 21). Retrieved from ://

Events like this meet many of the important, but often unacknowledged, needs of its members. According to Michael Brown (2001, Fall), the needs of the “whole person” include “power, interpersonal affiliation, friendship, achievement, fun, the exercise of personal interests, skills or new competencies, adventure, personal recognition.” The awards event that Stander organized also was a celebration for the whole community: 200 people attended. (Prairie, 2014, May 21) Stander addressed the needs of achievement, fun, friendship, and fun in one well-attended event.

But Stander does not just listen and support, she also educates, inspires others to act, and most importantly, she gets things done. This winter, Rural Vermont, with a coalition of other organizations, helped to pass a law that requires labeling of GMO products in Vermont starting in 2016 (Rural Vermont, n.d.) The “world was watching” to see if this law would pass and Stander worked hard to make that happened. (Farnham, 2014, January 23) In this case, she utilized aspects of the Directive style of leadership; the subsets of which are the Expert and the Challenger.  (Goodchild, 2012, March 7a) In the video below, Stander takes the role of the Expert, which is a leader who uses “experience and knowledge to provide guidance on how to approach a situation.” (Goodchild, 2012, March 7a) She speaks to the public about the GMO issue and makes suggestions for action in an informative fashion:

(Farnham, 2014, January 23)

Stander also utilizes qualities of the Challenger, a leader who has “a vision of what can be different,” and encourages others to “have the courage to act.”  (Goodchild, 2012, March 7a) She put together an anti-GMO protest and went on the street herself, encouraging others to participate.


[Stander protesting Monsanto’s opposition to GMO labeling]. D’Ambrosio, D. [Photographer] (D’Ambrosia, 2013, June 13). Retrieved from

Stander has made significant contributions to Vermont, the kind that save our rural way of life while moving us into the furture. According to Lakshmi (2008), the best leaders find a balance between making centralized decisions, decisions that involve the group, and delegating tasks and decisions to others. Stander is a model of a leader who juggles all of these approaches. She takes the time to learn from the views of others, but is ready to act and give direction when needed. And, as was so evident in her ability to successfully collaborate with other organizations fighting for the GMO law, she knows how to share responsibility.

When you hear Stander speak she exudes a quiet confidence and has a grounded nature, which speaks to the heart of Vermonters. Her commitment to farmers and food justice supports the cultural and economic identity of the state. She is not just a leader in Vermont, she is a leader of Vermont values. Vermont is lucky to have a well-rounded leader like Andrea Stander fighting for “economic justice for the people who feed us all.” (Slow Living Summit, n.d.)


Brown, M. (2001, Fall). Learning about leadership from community organizers. Journal for Quality & Participation, 10409602, Fall 2001, Vol.24, Issue 3.

D’Ambrosio, D. (2013, June 13). Labels sought for genetically modified food. USA Today. Retrieved from

Goodchild, D. [denisg77’s channel]. (2012, March 7a). Leadership styles: Directive leadership style[Video file]. Retrieved from

Goodchild, D. [denisg77’s channel]. (2012, March 7b). Leadership styles: Facilitative leadership style [Video file]. Retrieved from

Farnham, B. (2014, January 23). Andrea Stander, director, Rural Vermont, speaking about GMO labeling and H 112 [Video File]. Retrieved from

Lakshmi, A. K. (2008). Styles of leadership. Retrieved from

Prairie, C. (2014, May 21). Kaiman honored for farm activism;Weston Playhouse names new managing. The Chester Telegraph. Retrieved from ://

Rural Vermont. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Rural Vermont. (2015, May 7). Rural Vermont Facebook Page. Retrieved from

Slow Living Summit. (n.d.). Retrieved from

VPR. (2002, January). Vermont Arts Council Holds Public Forum. Retrieved from

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APA cite in text as: (Snyder, 2015)

APA cite in full References as: Snyder, M. (2015). Andrea Stander leads for rural Vermont. Vermont Psychology. Retrieved from

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f1Mandy Snyder: I work as a personal chef and a teacher of dance, including Authentic Movement & Contact Improvisation. The meeting of creativity, mindfulness and inner transformation is my passion, and I enjoy the teachings of the Enneagram, Nondual wisdom and Sensory Awareness. I grew up in Vermont, then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. Last August I returned to my Vermont roots and I am so grateful to be back in this gorgeous and hardy state.

View Mandy’s other article about mindfulness education in Vermont.