About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

#31: The Town That Food Saved

The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food, by Ben Hewitt (Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2010)

"For decades, the rural Vermont town of Hardwick (pop: 3,200) grappled with a challenged economy. Like so many small towns, the once-thriving regional industry had died, and the majority of the working population was forced to commute far beyond the town line to find work.

Enter the 'agripreneurs,' a group of ambitious young agricultural entrepreneurs with big ideas about how regionalized food-based enterprise can be used to create sustainable economic development and wean our nation of its unhealthy dependence on industrial food.
In The Town That Food Saved, Ben explores the contradictions inherent to producing high-end 'artisanal' food products in a working class community. To better understand how a local food system might work, he spends time not only with the agripreneurs, but also with the region’s numerous small-scale food producers, many of which have been quietly operating in the area for decades. The result is a delightfully inquisitive peek behind the curtain of the town that has been dubbed the 'Silicon Valley of local food.'"
Opening Line:
"If you come into the town of Hardwick, Vermont, from the east, you come in on Route 15, weaving through a series of curves that begin as gentle sweeps and become progressively sharper until you find yourself leaning in your seat, the view through your windshield tilted just a few degrees off its axis."

My Take:
Balanced if somewhat lightweight/ superficial look at what becoming a "local foods Mecca" can and can't do for a town -- specifically, the small and mostly blue-collar town of Hardwick, Vermont. I especially appreciated how Hewitt returned time and again to the problem of how most native Hardwickians (median income $15,000) were supposed to be able to afford $4 per gallon soy milk, $5 loaves of hand-made bread, and $20 per pound artisanal cheese. Some more possible answers to this question would have been even more appreciated, but at least the issue's on the table. An interesting companion to books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, though probably not much of an introduction for someone not already familiar with the topic.

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