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National Models of Rejuvenation Through Local Foods

October 21, 2009

New York Times- Hardwick, Vermont

Link to the full article in the New York Times

A Vermont town has been revitalized and united by food. With the closing of its granite companies, Hardwick, Vermont was losing businesses and jobs. Now, entrepreneurs and investors are working together in a cooperative effort to support new businesses, farmers, and to create jobs. From building an aging cave for cheese makers to sharing equipment and reusing byproducts, businesses are working together, enhancing their own success and the vitality of the town. Stakeholders have also begun to share capital, with $300,000 already given in short-term loans. Rob Lewis, the town manager, estimates that between 75 and 100 jobs have been recently created as a result of these efforts.

Collaborators in local food efforts in Hardwick, VT

Collaborators in local food efforts in Hardwick, VT. Photo: Paul O. Boisvert for The New York Times.

Restaurants are part of the equation. Claire’s Restaurant is a community supported restaurant that serves local fare. The restaurant began with investments from 50 of its neighbors, who will have their money repaid through discounted meals at the restaurant.

Pete Johnson, of Pete’s Gardens, has seen is business flourish with the growing interest in local foods. He grows 50 acres of organic crops and collaborates with 30 other farmers and producers to provide CSAs to over 200 participants. In the article he describes the impact of the local movement “Twelve years ago the market for local food was lukewarm. Now this state is primed for anything that is local. It’s a way to preserve our villages and rebuild them.”

These success stories bode well for Minnesota’s small town economies. New local food focused restaurants, local food distribution companies, and farmers markets springing up across the state mean more jobs and more stable markets for Minnesota’s farmers. They also mean more fresh, local foods reach more Minnesotans.

Food Banks Go Local

Link to the full article

A food pantry in San Francisco’s Hunters Point. Photo: Dru Donovan for The New York Times.

In the same issue, The New York Times highlighted California’s innovative efforts to bring local foods into food banks. The California Association of Food Banks has struck deals with farmers to bring unused fresh produce to food banks across the state. The idea is essentially “gleaning” on a much larger scale, and is bringing millions of pounds of fresh produce to people who otherwise may find fresh produce prohibitively expensive. Food To Farm is a small group of ex-farmers and food industry professionals formed to ferret out large amounts of unwanted fresh foods and bring them to the food banks. Efforts have been so successful that many banks are reporting that up to 60% of their food is now fresh.

The Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program enlists volunteers to pick apples from trees where the fruit would otherwise go to waste and donates the fruit to food shelves across the Twin Cities. For more on this project, see Fruits of the City season summary posted today by Emily Hanson.

Mary Kemp contributed to this post

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