The town that food saved? Investigating the promise of a local food economy in Vermont


Proponents of the local food movement point to its environmental, economic, and social benefits, yet there is little research on the extent to which particular local food projects live up to these promises. Vermont leads the country in farm stands, direct-to-consumer sales, and farmers’ markets per capita and the town of Hardwick, Vermont has received substantial media attention for its growing economy based on new food and agriculture businesses, including being the subject of a book entitled The Town that Food Saved. Using interviews with local food participants and analysis of US Census data, the paper assesses the impact of the local food economy in Hardwick using environmental, economic, and social outcomes. The paper also examines how the agricultural renaissance there has been accepted, resisted, and shaped by local actors. Using Census data, the paper finds that between 2000 and 2016, the unemployment rate in Hardwick remained steady, mean incomes increased, and 296 new jobs have been retained. In addition, the percentage of families in Hardwick with income below the poverty level decreased between 2000 and 2016, and the percentage of families accessing supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits increased. The paper also finds that many participants in the Hardwick food economy have concerns about the accessibility, affordability, and inclusivity of the newer food-based projects there. The paper concludes with a discussion of the ways in which Hardwick fulfils some of the hopes and concerns of the local food movement, and the potential for place-based agricultural development.


Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, and its publisher Taylor & Francis, have partnered with Pando to feature select article abstracts.  Click here to find links to the full article.

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Kathryn A. Olson

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