hewittBen Hewitt on his farm outside of Hardwick.Hardwick, a hardscrabble town in rural Vermont (pop. 3,200), once based its economy on a non-renewable resource locked up in its surrounding hillsides: granite. But then the granite ran out — taking the town economy down with it. More recently, the town has embarked on a wild experiment. Its economy is now based on farming and food production at a variety of scales, from niche veggie farms to a national organic seed business, from a locavore café to a statewide salad-greens producer. It’s worked. While the national finances plunged into the abyss in 2008, Hardwick kept adding jobs.

As someone who’s interested in food production as a tool of community-scale economic development, I’ve been watching the Hardwick story enthusiastically ever since Marian Burros sang the town’s praises in The New York Times back in 2008. So I was excited this past winter when Ben Hewitt, a Hardwick-area farmer and writer, came out with a book called The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food.

Reader support makes our work possible. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations TRIPLED!

With great sensitivity and a wealth of on-the-ground reporting, Hewitt shows that the story of Hardwick’s food revolution is a lot more complex and nuanced than could ever be expressed in a newspaper story. For the latest edition of Victual Reality, my podcast about food politics, I recently caught up with Hewitt via phone from his farm outside Hardwick.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

(The Victual Reality podcast is part of the Edible Communities project Edible Radio