Ben Hewitt, author of “The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food” and back-to-the-land activist, brought great attention to the town of Hardwick, VT with his book. Some senior-level English, Hazen Union High School, students have been discussing Hewitt’s book. They believe there is more to the story.
Nancy Demers, from our Morrisville Office, brought this to our attention after her son, Derek, was interviewed for the NPR report entitled, “Vermont Town’s Food Focus still a Growing Concept“. Derek, who works at the local grocery store and has direct awareness of customers’ concerns and needs, points out, “He only covers one side of the town. There’s the side of the town that’s for the local food movement, but I think there’s an even greater side of the town, with more people, that can’t afford the local food.”
Pete Johnson, owner of Pete’s Greens, agrees. He believes we must rely on locally-produced foods for several reasons, and this means making it more accessible. “For me,” says Pete, “one of the biggest ones (reasons) is the cultural aspect. These hills used to be populated by small farms… And now, even with this resurgence that we have going on, we don’t have the culture that we used to have.”
But this is changing. More and more, local food producers are hearing what their own communities have to say about their practices. It is not criticism, after all. Sending locally grown produce abroad is a sort of tangible invitation to be recognized, celebrated and ultimately to attract visitors and business. Everyone recognizes this, but the idea of being “locally produced” must also imply locally accessible.
Thus the community’s invitation to local producers says, “We appreciate how wonderfully you transform and enhance our community. Let us be a part of this too. Make it possible for us to adorn our tables with your produce.” And this is what is happening in Harwick and other similar communities. In the words of Dan Charles, author of the NPR report, “In this small town, at least, food is moving from the fringes of local life back toward its heart.”
A broad vision does not look beyond the land to market its local fare; it looks within the land first, and expands from there, quite naturally, just as the roots of a plant begin at the hub that is the seed end reach out from it, traveling every inch of the land that gave it birth. Perhaps in the midst and excitement of starting something big and meaningful, we get ahead of ourselves and momentarily forget our roots, until we feel the tug and remember.
Agriculture is, by nature, an ever-changing, ever-growing industry. From the crops we choose to harvest and distribute both locally and abroad, to the very practices in place to ensure a full cycle of growth and distribution, innovation and community are the true fertilizer of our land.
I invite you to read the full NPR article, or listen to it to hear what truly local voices have to say. Click here: Vermont Town’s Food Focus Still A Growing Concept