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Lift Review: The Town that Food Saved

THE TOWN THAT FOOD SAVED: How one community found vitality in local food. Ben Hewitt 2010

This is an account of how, over a period of about three years, the locals and some newbies transformed the town of Hardwick, Vermont, USA (pop. 3200) from a local economy in decline to a flourishing and largely self-sufficient community of real character.

Hewitt began researching the surprising growth of Hardwick’s agriculture in 2008, on an assignment for Gourmet magazine. The book starts rather slowly, but it’s worth persevering for the developing richness of detail and character. He entered the lives of the locals, and we become familiar with their respective histories, attitudes, aims, talents and weaknesses, and their relationships with one another. A key concept is ‘agrepreneurial’, a word he coined to describe ‘the agrarian entrepreneurialism that infuses many of the region’s food-based enterprises’. These include both new endeavours and greater development of existing ones, including such as Applecheek Farm, Jasper Hill Farm and Cheese Cellars, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, Vermont Soy, Claire’s Restaurant and Bar, Highfield’s Center for Composting, the Center for an Agricultural Economy, North Hardwick Dairy (farm), Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op, and others, whose endeavours are explored in great detail.

He describes the general system of food production as: “We've created a system that demands almost no engagement with our food; we've wrung all the responsibility and sweat equity from the process. It's not that we're getting something for nothing - after all, we do pay for our food, and we suffer the consequences of dining from the industrial trough. But charging a package of center-cut pork chops to your Visa is a hell of a lot different than facing down the source of those chops with a .22 in one hand and a well-honed knife in the other.” Then he gives his four specifics of a healthy decentralized food system:

1. It must offer economic viability to small-scale food producers.

2. It must be based on sunshine (not chemicals and petroleum).

3. It must feed the locals.

4. It must be circular (a seed producer, a composting operation, and vegetable and fruit growers)

Not all the people described agree with one another on how to live and prosper. One stand-out is Steve Gorelick, one of the directors of the famous film ‘The economics of happiness’. He draws attention to the effects, good and bad, of the media on such developments. His partner, Suzanna, points out another thing: “There are two currencies in our world: there’s the currency of money and the currency of nature. The currency of money is the one that’s failing us now.” Another unusual couple make their living killing animals for the farmers. All are inspirational in their own ways.

As I was reading, I kept finding passages that I wanted to quote in this review. If I had done so, it would have been ten pages long! For the humour, the variety of issues and ways of dealing with them, for the range of interesting people interviewed and described, for the ideas we can bring into our own lives here – you’ll just have to read it yourself.

LIFT's Latest Book Review

This changes everything: Capitalism vs the climate
klein thunberg
Naomi Klein interviews Greta Thunberg in New York - September 9, 2019.


Reviewed by Juliet Adams

 This is one of the most important books in LIFT.

It explains everything about what’s wrong with our world (well, almost!). It tells us about everything that is being done and that can be done to change the situation and save our future (well, almost!).  

If Naomi Klein had included any more topics the book would have been too heavy!  

Don’t let that put you off. It may take a lot of time to read; maybe you’ll even skip some  pages (I couldn’t!) But it will enlighten you with its detail, thoroughly backed by references, on so  many important topics, revealed in everyday language with clarifying examples.

She writes: “So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us  from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? 

“I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things  that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated  capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of  this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting  catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media  outlets.”

Not only does she explain how and why things have gone wrong with each aspect (climate  change, fossil fuels’ dominance, free market fundamentalism, big business and greenwashing,  misplaced dreams of technology, greedy exploitation of the planet and its people, to name a few) ;  she also explains for each one the actions that have been taken and are being taken to remedy  them.

She doesn’t just leave that till a chapter at the end, as many writers do.

One LIFT member has pointed out that she has not explained the rising tide of alternative money systems that could reduce the power of those controlling many of the problems.  A good  point.  Maybe that will be her next book?  This book is inspiring!



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 Wanting to read one of our great books but just don't have time?

Just ask Juliet for a summary, she has several available by email including:
  • "Blessed Unrest", by Paul Hawken
  • "Fleeing Vesuvius", by FEASTA and LE
  • "No More Throwaway People", by Edgar S. Cahn
  • "Sacred Economics", by Charles Eisenstein
  • "The End of Money and the Future of Civilization", by Thomas H. Greco
  • "The Future of Money", by Bernard Lietaer
  • "We the People", by John Buck and Sharon Villines