Monday, June 28, 2010

Off the Shelf: 'The Town that Food Saved'

Off the Shelf is an occasional feature wrapping up a book about a food-related topic. These are not reviews; think of them as extended book jackets with important pull-out points.

After reading "The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food," I felt that the subtitle was a more 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 revitalized.

But 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 live).

The 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 up to create a food-centric community that has added to the revitalization of the area.

Those 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 list.

And now, the hail of bullets:

  • the 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 not."
  • talking about the decrease in the number of farmers: "Every step toward diluting the farming population among us is another step toward food insecurity."
  • a decentralized agricultural system will force us to think differently about how we shop and about what we eat.
  • Hewitt, 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."

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