National Public Radio ran this story on the Hardwick, Vermont agricultural model called “Vermont Town’s Food Focus Still a Growing Concept.” From the story:
The town of Hardwick, Vt., has been celebrated as the scene of a local food revival. In recent years, lots of small farms have started up nearby.
Tom Stearns, president of a local organic seed company called High Mowing Seeds, says there are more organic farms per capita within 10 miles of Hardwick than anywhere else in the world. There’s also a thriving local grocery co-op; a busy farmer’s market; even a classy restaurant — Claire’s — where almost anything you eat grew or grazed on land nearby.
Ben Hewitt, the author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food, lives on a family farm in Cabot, Vt.
But it was Ben Hewitt, as much as anyone, who really put Hardwick and its local food scene on the map. He’s a writer and a back-to-the-land activist himself. He lives on 40 acres near Cabot, down the road from Hardwick, with his wife, their two home-schooled children, and an assortment of pigs, cows and a very friendly dog named Daisy.
Hewitt saw what was happening in Hardwick, and it struck him as unusual, even odd. “Here’s this town: Unemployment rate 40 percent higher than the Vermont state average; median income 25 percent lower; and then there was this thing happening around so-called sustainable ag and local food!” Hewitt says. So Hewitt wrote a book about Hardwick: The Town That Food Saved.
If you prefer, you can listen to a podcast of the NPR story here.
On a related note, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association recently released their “Regional Food System Plan for Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom” (pdf, 6 MB) which, not surprisingly, prominently features Hardwick, Vermont.
In recognition of the growing potential for local agriculture to augment the economy of the Northeast Kingdom, NVDA has commissioned a plan for a Regional Food System. A food system encompasses all of the land, infrastructure, activities and people from soil to plate and back to the soil as nutrients. The Strategies and Action items presented in the plan offer methods to develop the NEK’s agricultural economy and contribute to region wide land-use and community planning goals. The key Goals and Strategies of the Regional Food System Plan will inform the next update of NVDA’s comprehensive Regional Plan.
This certainly is a comprehensive plan that spans over 100 pages that attempts to spread the ideas and energy in Hardwick, Vermont to the rest of the Northeast Kingdom (which consists of Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties). This is a must-read document for all towns in Northern New England that has or had a strong agricultural tradition.