If you’re looking at the title of this book and thinking that this will be a story of how a community suddenly rallies to feed everyone, or about people coming to a town and helping to feed others, you’re going to be disappointed since that is not the story here. What you will find is a story of a community helping itself, some upstarts coming in with a revolutionary flair, and a very New England town.
The Town That Food Saved is about a small town in northern Vermont called Hardwick. It’s something of a typical New England town: had some industry long ago (granite), industry dried up, jobs faded away, median income not too high. What a lot of towns don’t experience is a influx of hippies in the late 1960s- early 1970s who start farming and also put together a food co-op still active to this day. Or farmers already on the land committed to growing their own food and even giving it away to their neighbors.
You will also find stories of local businesses catering to the artisanal food trends happening, like cheese making and a restaurant based around local foods. There’s also a soy company whose story set my teeth on edge (Why don’t I like soy?). The author brings up the question regularly of these high-priced food items which the average resident could not dream of justifying in their food budget. The fact that this often was part of the narrative made me very happy. I do admit to a concern that things like real and traditional food may never seen the big inroads I would hope them to have due to the perceived high costs of the good. Ben Hewitt, the author, does also mention the other costs of cheap food, like health issues and putting smaller farms out of business, and does suggest that perhaps this localized eating might well turn out to be cost-effective in the long run for everyone.
Some quotes I enjoyed:
“We choose to eat meat for reasons of health, a deep and abiding belief in the restorative power of bacon, and farm synergy, because a farm without animals is a farm that must import significant quantities of fertilizer.” (p. 161, emphasis mine.)
“Because it is not merely our small, economically distraught communities that must be saved by food. Indeed, unless we are to place full faith in the magic of exponential growth against a finite resource base, we must recognize that at some point all countries and cultures that have fallen under the spell of industrial agriculture will need to be saved by food. This is a humbling truth. I once believed that local food carried the scent of pretense, but I have come to understand that the posturing is not being done by proponents of local agriculture. Indeed, the real arrogance is the assumption that we can continue getting something for less than it is worth and that our bodies, communities, and lands won’t rebel against this falsehood.” (p. 222.)
If you’re looking for more fuel for the fire as to why more localized eating could turn around communities (and perhaps the country?) read this book. If you’re unsure of how local farms might indeed feed the people in the area, read this book. If you just want to read about a resilient New England town whose residents don’t know how to handle their new notoriety, read this book.
Read, enjoy, and pass this on to your friends. I loved this book and hope you all do too.
Five spatulas out of five.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday. Check out the carnival to see what else is happening in the traditional food blog world this week!