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The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food [Kindle Edition]

Ben Hewitt
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 eat.

Over the past 3 years, Hardwick, Vermont, a typical hardscrabble farming community of 3,000 residents, has jump-started its economy and redefined its self-image through a local, self-sustaining food system unlike anything else in America. Even as the recent financial downturn threatens to cripple small businesses and privately owned farms, a stunning number 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, equipment, and business plans, and to loan each other capital. Hardwick is fast becoming a model for other communities to replicate its success. 

Hewitt, a journalist and Vermonter, delves deeply into the repercussions of this groundbreaking approach to growing food, both its astounding successes and potential limitations. The captivating story of an unassuming community and its extraordinary determination to build a vibrant local food system, The Town That Food Saved is grounded in ideas that will revolutionize the way we eat and, quite possibly, the way we live.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Through the last decade the Northern Vermont town of Hardwick, population 3200, gradually evolved into a nationally respected source of local food and began to reap benefits. Hewitt, an area resident and family farmer, previously wrote about the area as a potential example of localized agriculture and economics, especially for a population whose residents' median income was below state average. But curiosity and healthy skepticism, along with his own investment, spurred him to this deeper investigation into the local personalities (and characters) driving the movement, and to observe, participate and reflect upon such odiferous activities as pig slaughtering. The resulting blend of analysis and reflection highlights the possibilities and perils of what Hewitt argues will impact the agricultural and economic future for better or worse. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A microscopic burg in northern Vermont may just be the epicenter of a new food movement, a scenario that alternately amuses, enthuses, and enrages its 3,200 residents. With a hardscrabble reputation left over from its heyday as a mining metropolis, Hardwick has had to rely on a can-do/can-do-without stoicism before, though the current economic downturn is certainly testing its mettle. Enter a group of young, energetic agribusinessmen—agripreneurs is Hewitt’s newly minted term—whose vision for a revolutionary farm-to-table locavore movement aimed at turning Hardwick’s, and possibly the nation’s, food crisis around has captured national media attention and garnered local skepticism. The irony plays out in Hewitt’s beguiling profiles of the players at the heart and on the periphery of dovetailing associations; from the charismatic media darling who produces heirloom seeds to the craggy erstwhile hippie couple who offer a mobile slaughtering service. Adroitly balancing professional neutrality with personal commitment, Hewitt engagingly examines this paradigm shift in the way a community feeds its citizens. --Carol Haggas

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than its title! February 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Based on the description of this book, I kind of assumed that author Ben Hewitt was a local food zealot deeply involved in whatever it is that's going on in the "town" of the title, and that it would therefore be a self-congratulatory memoir, more than a careful look at anything. I was wrong.

While Hewitt is a proponent of local food and a (very) small-scale subsistence farmer living just a few miles from Hardwick, Vermont, this book is thoughtful, well-researched, and almost stunningly well-written. I read it in less than 24 hours, captivated not quite as much by the story as by the writing. It's delightful, and worth reading for that reason alone.

That said, the story is pretty captivating, too, but it's a blueprint of how to save a town with food in the same way that John McPhee's "Oranges" is about how to grow oranges. (The writing, btw, reminded me a bit of McPhee.) This is an insightful look into a town and the folks who populate it -- some "agripreneurs", some traditional famers, some true radicals, some completely indifferent. It seeks less to see Hardwick as emblematic of what should be done everywhere than it does to tease out some of the complications with local food that many of its advocates gloss over.

Another reviewer slams this book as being a hippie socialist manifesto. I couldn't disagree more. Hewitt explores that side of the local food movement, but ultimately rejects it, coming out in favor of a very capitalistic view of the whole thing. Sure, this whole thing is about evaluating costs other than those that appear on this year's balance sheet, but it's certainly not about doing away with a market-based system. I'm tempted to wonder if that reviewer actually read the book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Take Food for Granted March 24, 2010
By J. Lamb
Format:Hardcover
I can't start planting seeds in the veggie garden for at least another month up in Northern New Hampshire and so to keep me sane until the digging begins I turned to the new book by author Ben Hewitt, "The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food."

The main thesis of this book is: Don't Take Food for Granted. Oh, and... Don't Take Your Neighbors for Granted Either. If you care about food or about eating in the years to come: read this book.

I read it as if I was gobbling up the first greens of the spring garden: total joy that the book, the people in the book, the work and ideas in the book, are alive. Hewitt documents, discusses, and dissects how the town and the towns that surround Hardwick, Vermont are reinventing the circle of food. You know, the circle that has happened since the beginning of time where we grow food, eat food, compost food and grow more food from the remains of the old food--all in our own backyard.

I admit, before I read this book I was already well versed in the critical reasons why this country needs to change how we grow, deliver, eat, and engage in the food system (if you don't know already, read the book and find out.) So Hewitt didn't need to convince me, and he isn't really setting out to convince you either. If you think broccoli grows at the supermarket and you are content to think that, this book isn't for you. But if you suspect something is wrong with the whole system where food grown under corporate foot is shipped thousands of miles to feed your family, but you can't really envision another workable system or you can't imagine a workable transition from one system to another--well then, this book is for you.

As much as this book is about food, it is about community.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice, but slight . . . February 9, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Hewitt's book tells us of a small town (and surrounding areas) which was prosperous from the local granite industry many decades ago, but has since fallen into what one might call substinence-level farming in the post-war era. But recently, a spate of enterpreneurs has created a new, interactive business model - a seed growing company, an artisan cheesemaker, various people growing organic and heirloom produce, a local co-op, and even something of a high cuisine restaurant using foodstuffs from local suppliers. The synergy between these concerns makes this new business model viable, despite mistrust and dismay from some locals . . . and despite the fact that many locals cannot afford many of these products themselves.

Hewitt's a good writer, but the book is a little short of personality, and it fails to live up to its grandiose title or many of the ideas presented early on. There's no real proof that food has "saved" this town. It's brought some jobs into the area and helped spur many community activities, but most of the benefits from those active in this "movement" have not yet been fully reaped. Some of the most promising concerns, such as the seed company and the cheese producers, are heavily in debt and their success is not fully guaranteed. Most of the town still earns very low pay for the work they do, and suffer the many anxieties of small-town produce and dairy farmers without any huge improvement in their lifestyles. And because many of these promising start-ups are geared towards "export" to big cities where there is a concentration of people who can afford (say) $20 a pound cheese, using this town as a model for local food security - something Hewitt touts - is exaggerated at best.

That aside, there is room for thought in the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good portrait of the town and individuals in the "local food" movement
Very readable. Author has a light, personal touch and still illuminates some of the big issues regarding food sustainability and the loss of skills we need to grow our own food. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Trudy Bagdon
4.0 out of 5 stars Good data regarding the puzzle of local food...
It's good to see such an unbiased recounting of one town's stab at building a local, decentralized food system and all its many facets. Ben keeps it informative, real, and cheeky.
Published 4 months ago by Membrain
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Case Study Community Development Utilizing Natural Resources...
Wonderful example of community building and economic development utilizing local assets. Inside out rather than outside in community development. Kudos to all involved!
Published 7 months ago by Valhillrawls
3.0 out of 5 stars Agripreneurs with a grandiose idea, is it really about saving a town?
The book is an offshoot of the media attention on the town of Hardwick in Vermont stemming from a New York Times article from a few years ago, and an attempt to examine the role of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mohan Babu K
5.0 out of 5 stars Being a neighbor...
I live only 14 miles from the town of Hardwick and have witnessed its amazing transformation - in a good way. Read more
Published 10 months ago by BeeGee
5.0 out of 5 stars a delicious read
The farm-to-table movement, CSAs, and locavores have become all the rage in recent years. This book takes an honest look at how food changed a small town in the Northeast Kingdom... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about nothing
Kind of slow.
Showing that niche food markets and overpriced restaurants will not be a solution to industrial agriculture.No effective local alternative exists. Read more
Published 13 months ago by liberty man
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical inspiration for local food business
Hewitt starts by questioning the hype implicit in his title. Did local food really save the town, given that most of its residents, largely working class, still eat mostly... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Erik D. Curren
1.0 out of 5 stars A local who doesn't need saving
Oh, please. This is a promo piece -- hardly a book -- for a crowd of yuppies who have descended on a respectable Vermont village and pretended to rescue it. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Daisy
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
An interesting read on a trending topic. I'm going to use this in one of my classes this semester to promote discussion.
Published 19 months ago by Jessica Hutchison
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