The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt

The Town That Food Saved is a curious study of how old-time values and new ideas in agriculture clash and yet compliment each other to transform a crumbling community into something viable for the future.

The town of Hardwick in northern Vermont is a survivalist of a place.  Its main industry of granite production went by the wayside decades ago, but this didn’t kill Hardwick.  Nor has the recent recession, although it’s definitely hit the town hard.  By the graces of a strong agricultural base that has changed but not left, and the infusion of a newer group of “agripreneurs” (business people committed to the production of local and organic food) Hardwick in 2009 has seemed poised on the brink of a renaissance of sorts – one where sustainable local food production offers more promise of uniting the community than anything previous.

The agribusinesses – purveyors of homemade cheeses, heirloom organic seeds, etc. – are by far the most vocal of the town’s residents as to its new status as a hotbed of organic sustainability.  The press has certainly swooped down on the doings in Hardwick, much to the chagrin of other locals, who either have grown up farming or have lived the back-to-nature life for far longer and with considerably less fanfare than the newcomers.

In a town with a strong unemployment rate, is it the newer agribusinesses with their catering to foodies and the like, or the old guard farmers whose presence has diminished somewhat but not died, who will keep the community vibrant?  The author interviews people from both camps with a commentary that is both wry and humorous, and is not afraid to ask his own questions about whether Hardwick merrily develops into some sort of utopic farming experiment, or caves in under its own sustainable hubris.

The book is very much an eye-opener into what is involved with a shift from our mechanized and centralized food culture to something more local. 

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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