The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt

6851796Nonfiction — print. Rodale, 2009. 234 pgs. Library copy.

Subtitled “How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food”, Hewitt’s book is a reexamination of the food system of Hardwick, Vermont he previously wrote about in (the now defunct) Gourmet magazine. Hewitt seemed to be unhappy with the story presented by him and other journalists.

I had heard mentions of Hardwick, Vermont in other articles and books I’ve read about the development of local food systems. This book examines the gap between what local food systems are supposed to be and what they actually end up being. The center of this local food system boils down to a group of farmers who produce natural/organic produce and dairy products, including artesian cheeses, that fetch two or three times more at the market than conventionally grown products. Hardwick, though, is home to a large, working-class population that cannot afford $5 organic milk and $18 cheese. Is this truly a local food system if the majority of the population cannot afford to purchase these locally-produced products?

Although the book is supposed to be about the local food movement, it is also brings up a journalistic issue: How do you write critically about your neighbors and friends? The people at the center of Hardwick’s local food system are Hewitt’s friends; the people who are against the public attention lavished on these businesses are also Hewitt’s friends. Because of this, Hewitt allows all of his friends to have their say in his book whether or not they have the facts to back-up their opinions.

The book does bring up some interesting questions. Unfortunately, Hewitt’s decision to interject himself into the book rather than stepping back and examining Hardwick’s food system from an unbiased perspective as well as decision to include all of his friends’ and neighbors’ opinions colors his narrative.

The Honors Project:

I read this book for The Honors Project, my own personal challenge to read more books about economics, food, and/or geography in preparation for writing my honors thesis. My goal for this project is to learn as much as I can about these topics so I can formulate better questions and, in turn, produce a better honors thesis. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post, project post, or spreadsheet of titles.

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