A few years ago, the town of Hardwick, VT was fading fast. Like so many communities in isolated corners of our state, it had lost many of its primary businesses, including dairy farming and logging. With few jobs available for the town's 3,000 people, Main Street slowly closed up shop, and Hardwick began sinking into the same oblivion that has claimed so many other American small towns. Then the town discovered food.
In many ways what happened in Hardwick was just Vermonters being Vermonters -- fiercely independent, self-reliant, eternally progressive, and always appreciative of the gifts that good land provides. In a nutshell, the town became a laboratory for the locavore movement. People came together and cooked up a whole new economy based on the idea of local food. Now Hardwick, a town with more dirt roads than paved streets, has become perhaps the most important food town in America, a model for sustainable local living.
Around here, we call it the Hardwick Miracle. Townsfolk have created an organic seed company, a composting facility, and a tofu and soy milk plant. There are cheese makers and restaurateurs, bakeries and orchards. There's a local sustainable investment fund, a new Food Venture Center guiding food-based entrepreneurs, and an agricultural education center. There are viable dairy farms and new vegetable farmers, like Pete Johnson of Pete's Green's, all growing what amounts to an extraordinary rural resurgence.
Jobs are being created. Harvests are growing. And the whole region is feeding itself with locally grown food that's fresh, delicious, and nutritious. Hardwick's model is catching on in the rest of Vermont, too. Local economies are being revitalized by Vermonters willing to grow and eat entirely local meals -- even in the dead of winter -- at home or in restaurants and for not much of a premium either.
You really have to see it to believe it. Hardwick is becoming something of a foodie tourist destination. Pete's now gives tours, eateries are packed with out-of-towners, and there have been profiles from the New York Times and Gourmet magazine, among others. And why not? Hardwick is a harbinger of trends to come. It's a town where you can see a bright sustainable future right now.
Here's a great video of Pete Johnson. Give it a look then come for a visit and see for yourself. Just remember to reserve ahead!
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!