If you’re into organic, local foods, then you probably know that the new “it” town is Hardwick, VT. It’s where all the cool kids hang. Why? Because Hardwick’s previously failing economy has been saved – or at least bolstered – by the cooperative efforts of its local farmers and food producers. Local companies like Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill Farm, and Pete’s Greens have been working together for the last few years to support one another’s businesses while promoting their own. They utilize one another’s products – and byproducts – and promote each other’s businesses to potential investors. The result has been a burgeoning local food movement, and an increased sense of community.
I can’t help but hope that Hardwick will serve as an example for communities across the country. Food is an important aspect of culture, and when food becomes generic – when you see the same chain restaurants and supermarkets from town to town – then it’s not just our health that suffers, but our cultural heritage, as well. The corporate forces that peddle empty, flavorless processed foods are the same forces that have dotted our landscape with strip malls and big box stores. So to consume local, healthful food when possible is to take a stand against the process of turning culture into a commodity.
What’s more, as it becomes ever more obvious that we cannot continue to consume oil at the level to which we have become accustomed, the benefits of eating and living locally will become more apparent. Moreover, eating locally means eating foods that are in season and that grow well in your particular climate. In turn, that leads to a deeper experience of our ties with nature. Certainly, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t eat bananas or chocolate. Local eating doesn’t have to be 100 percent. But increasing our awareness of our local food supplies will strengthen communities, benefit the environment, protect local culture, and increase our overall state of wellness.