Book Review: The Town that Food Saved

How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
by Ben Hewitt, rodale books (2010), $24.99

Ben Hewitt is not an impartial observer—something he admits openly in his new book The Town That Food Saved. A writer and part-time farmer, Hewitt lives just down the road from Hardwick, Vermont, a modest town experiencing a boom in food-based businesses.

The narrative feels part journalistic account, part memoir, as Hewitt guides us through his ever-changing attitude towards the evolution of this hard-scrabble agricultural community. When speaking to the up-and-coming “agrepreneurs”—Tom Searns of High Mowing Organic Seeds, Andrew Meyer of Vermont Soy—the writer is admittedly swept up in their rhetoric of localized food systems and halcyon days ahead. But when confronted by some of the town’s old-timers and their equally-powerful arguments against a “local” system that relies so heavily on luxury items and the export of goods to urban centers, Hewitt isn’t shy about his internal conflict.

In the end, it’s Hewitt’s naked bias and personal connection to the people and the place that make this book such a compelling read. The reader gets to hang out with a knowledgeable, passionate—and quite funny—guy as he parses the changes in Hardwick, and the implications they might have for his area and broader contemporary food systems.