Ben Hewitt: The Town That Food Saved



Ben Hewitt ß 1 REVIEW

What other towns can only dream of doing And if Ben Hewitt s book goes as big as say a Michael Pollan release then Hardwick Vermont will not be pleased with the ensuing increase of real estate values caused by well off yuppies who are ready to forgo Whole Foods in favor of Whole Hog One by one Hewitt introduces the players a seed seller soy maker dairy farmer cheese artisan pig slaughterer head chef co op food store manager etc You hear their opinions of their jobs and of each other s livelihoods Tension Sure A lot of these youngish agripreneurs are already growing rich not just vegetables by selling their products to big city markets and internet shoppers They should be feeding their own first and foremost some argue But then how can they survive if their own alone isn t enough to support their businesses Paradoxes in the Green Mountain State Hewitt s all over it and p to the philosophical musings on the topicAt times a bit dry with its journalistic feel The Town that Food Saved should satisfy its base the growing ranks of foodies Consider it a blueprint And if you re too impatient to see this happen in your own town consider it an invitation to Hardwick Before it gets too expensive to live in I mean If I had to sum this book p in one word that word would be meh The author sets out to describe how the small Vermont community of Hardwick transformed itself from a run down town into a local foods hotspot There are a few problems with this goal which the author himself admits First of all the food revolution doesn t take place in Hardwick itself but rather in the Hardwick area including several nearby towns Also Hardwick although certainly not the most prosperous town in the world was not nearly as run down as the dust jacket would have you believe Finally there was already a strong and deep rooted local food tradition in the area the revolution was largely what the author calls agreprenuers who create small vibrant business that would fit the local bill perfectly except that they export most of their food outside the communityThere s something else the dust jacket gets wrong Lively funny and candid The Town That Food Saved tells the fascinating story of an nassuming community Well it is candid and the community is Sweet Valentine unassuming but I can t say the book is lively or funny or that the story is fascinating Mostly it s slow has too many chapters and takes forever to get to the point If you are a big fan of this genre or are looking for information on Hardwick you might check this out But it s definitely no Omnivore s Dilemma First off I did like this book and it was interesting to hear of a little rural community coming back to life through localfoodagetc That is great and amazing and inspirational and neat However though it is great to hear all of this I felt the author focused so much on his little community that he came across as thinking their community was the ONLY community doing these things I think the entire country is experiencing what this small town in Vermont is experiencing Co ops seed trading composting etc happens all over this country and is nothing new in little communities and even cities So again I liked this book but sometimes it came off as a little pretentious to think that Hardwick is the last bastion of hope in the world for food We can learn things from them but I think they could learn things from say Milwaukee and our amazing local co ops composting community gardens etc too Just my opinion Still a good read for those looking to see what other communities are doing in the local foodag movement Tonderstand the effect this book had on me I suppose it makes sense to give some context After much deliberation and internal struggle I recently made a decision to return to graduate school in California to study Community and Regional Development I wanted to figure out the ways in which agriculture and food business can do good create jobs improve the physical environment improve people s health and promote cultural change that among other things may lead to cooperation compassion participation and ltimately a satisfied happy societyMore and people have a hunch that there s something magical about community and local and regional systems or at least as opposed to the cen. Nd to loan each other capital Hardwick is fast becoming a model for other communities to replicate its success Author Ben Hewitt presents the captivating story of a small town coming back to life The Town That Food Saved is narrative nonfiction at its best full of colorful characters and grounded in an idea that will revolutionize the way we ea.

I didn t enjoy this book I don t need any convincing that local decentralized food production is a better alternative than shipping produce 1000 miles and I was interested to read about a small town that s only a few hours from where I live in NY State But despite a cast of very colorful characters the book was painfully dull at times and I didn t care for Hewitt s writing style which is often bloated and self indulgentThat said I gave The Town That Food Saved three stars because it made me think As someone who has ntil recently only lived in big cities I hadn t considered all of the challenges facing local food production Is it scalable How many people would have to contribute labor in order to feed a whole community Does it matter that local food tends to be shipped away from the blue collar rural farm towns to fancy pper middle class grocery stores and restaurants in bigger cities Is there a combination of large scale agriculture and local production that might be sustainable I did like the description of the modern agriculture lifestyle in its many forms because I think it s something that people need to reconnect with I think the thing that threw me a bit off this book is that the author kept on referring to the exceptionalism of his town in Vermont I live in Durham which was named by Bon Appetit as the foodiest town in America so I kept wanting to interject with Hey We do that here too even down to having compost experts sell their wares at our neighborhood farmers market I m sed to having access to food straight from the farmers I m Some Like It Hotter used to my local restaurants serving seasonal menus because they re getting their food straight from the farmers too I ve seen local coffee shops with their local pastries and roasted beans push Starbucks out of business on at least two corners It felt like the challenges in scaling that the author was anticipating had already been solved here Maybe Hardwick is exceptional and Durham is also exceptional just like Hardwick but I d rather hope that the locavore movement has traction than that I had hoped this book would have to say on the potential for scalingp rather than all the challenges of starting small After reading The Town that Food Saved How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food I felt that the subtitle was a appropriate title than the actual title Indeed it did not seem as though food saved the community of Hardwick Vt Rather food seemed to be a common thread that led to the community being revitalizedBut I digress It s a book worthy of a read especially if like me you wonder whether a true local food movement would work in the Milwaukee Wis area or the area where you liveThe author Ben Hewitt describes several older and younger people in the Hardwick area and the roles they have filled and the businesses they have created He tells how all those people add More Than a Convenient Bride (Texas Cattlemans Club: After the Storm up to create a food centric community that has added to the revitalization of the areaThose companies High Mowing Organic Seeds Highfields Center for Composting Pete s Greens the Center for an Agricultural Economy Heartbeet Lifesharing Vermont Soy Company Vermont Natural Coatings Jasper Hill Farm Claire s There are other farms and farmers too this is not a be all end all listAnd now the hail of bulletsthe author says sustainable has been corrupted At its core agriculture is a human manipulation of a natural process Is there a version of agriculture that is truly sustainable Probably so Is there a version of agriculture that is truly sustainable and able to feed 7 billion people Almost certainly nottalking about the decrease in the number of farmers Every step toward diluting the farming population amongs is another step toward food insecuritya decentralized agricultural system will force s to think differently about how we shop and about what we eatHewitt who has a farm on the value of food the value of the food we grow isn t the food minus the labor necessary to bring it to the table It is the food plus the labor The title is a misnomer Hardwick VT has not been saved by food but this agricultural community has spawned some nascent organic food companies and good for them I enjoyed the personal stories and the exploration of some of the controversies surrounding a couple of thos. Over the past 3 years Hardwick Vermont a typical hardscrabble farming community of 3000 residents has jump started its economy and redefined its self image through a local self sustaining food system nlike anything else in America Even as the recent financial downturn threatens to cripple small businesses and privately owned farms a stunning

Ebook Online The Town That Food Saved Ú Ben Hewitt – cafe1919.org

E businesses getting some good press such as a a 2008 NYT piece and trying to establish themselves as community change agents to the annoyance of some of the established organic farmers No new local food system has yet been set Tavern Wench up since the locals are not the primary consumers of the end products The bulk of the revenue seems to come from outside the region and none of the new businesses have yet achieved profitability Still these businesses have value in that they are attempting to prove the economic viability of providing organic foodWhile I enjoyed the slice of rural life aspect of the book I really did not enjoy the writing especially during the first 50 pages The author s style is freuently clumsy and he spends too much time pontificating on the end of life as we know it and is too focused on the media attention the town received for a short period of time While reading this book I met a mathematical forecaster for an options firm whose job entails removing the media noise to accurately identify actual business and environmental trends He stated that in the short term it s always the noise that is most dominant This book had too much noise obscuring the actual trends When I read non fiction books I m accustomed to two different kinds of approaches 1 the memoir where someone tells their insider experience with a subject where they re expected to be biased and 2 the journalist where the person researches a subject and forms an opinion based on what they ve found Ben Hewitt seems to approach The Town that Food Saved from the point of view of a jou I think I enjoyed this book in no small part because I m familiar with a lot of the organizations and places Hewitt details in the book Pete s Greens Jasper Hill Cheese Vermont Soy and the town of Hardwick in general It s also dovetailing with a debate my own small Vermont town is having over whether to allow a big box store to move in and force a total rethink of traffic patterns Let me backp I agree with other reviewers who have stated that the title of this book is misleading it is in reality a series of poignant vignettes profiles of places and people engaged in food and farming in rural Vermont interspersed with the author s sometimes ham handed attempts at talking through sustainability in a local food movement Because as Hewitt makes clear Hardwick didn t find vitality in local food so much as wrestle with a discussion between long time traditional farmers newcomers with weird soy based ideas and Vermonters not engaged in farming at all and struggling to feed their families anything at all The vignettes are delightful Hewitt is a vivid and descriptive place teller and the subjects of his profiles come to life warts and all There s a whole chapter on soil fertility that is one of the most engaging pieces of anything I ve read in years But And the Winner - Weds! unfortunately Hewitt himself struggles tonpack the local food sustainability growth economic access situation nfolding in Hardwick And to be fair he admits he struggles with it but oh boy the struggles They go on for days and sometimes Hewitt flips back and forth on a topic within the space of a few pages like when he decries Claire s restaurant for serving 12 entrees too pricey for a town where the average salary was in 2009 14K and then decries Hardwick for not accepting the challenge of prioritizing to eat 12 entrees and then settles on dour disapproval of the restaurant s pricing It s confusing and the wool gathering in this vein goes on for a very long time I wish he d brought in an economist or someone whose area really is food sustainability systems and let them do at least half the wool gatheringBut I really liked meeting all the farms in and around Hardwick I liked thinking about local food systems with Hewitt Hewitt farms over in Cabot and I wanted to hear about his farm as well as all the others and I m still mad that Jasper Hill has stopped producing Constant Bliss Hate Big Food and sick of shopping at the Big Y Dream about being a locavore or an agripreneur if that s Greek to you check out a Foodie dictionary Wish you could eat at a restaurant on Main Street Your SA that gets 80% of its ingredients from sources within 15 miles This book is for youIt s the story of one town that s doing. Umber of food based businesses have grown in the region Vermont Soy Jasper Hill Farm Pete's Greens Patchwork Farm Bakery Apple Cheek Farm Claire's Restaurant and Bar and Bonnieview Farm to name only a few The mostly young entrepreneurs have created a network of community support; they meet regularly to share advice euipment and business plans

Ben Hewitt writes and farms in Northern Vermont His work has appeared in numerous national periodicals including the New York Times Magazine Wired Gourmet Discover Skiing Eating Well Powder Men's Journal National Geographic Adventure Outside Bicycling and many others He lives with his wife and two sons in a self built home that is powered by a windmill and solar photovoltaic panels