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CLARION, Pa. – Author Ben Hewitt of Cabot, Vt., talked to students and residents of the community about the local food movement in a lecture titled “The Future’s in the Dirt: How Local Food Can Transform Local Economies” on Monday, March 31. Hewitt explored the financial and economic advantages of growing produce locally, a concept where planting a seed, or in this case, a garden, reaps benefits like no other, sort of like a money tree.
Hewitt’s book, “The Town that Food Saved” was inspired by his local community’s efforts in growing and producing their own food, “where food, agriculture, community and love of the land are united and rooted together.” He briefly explained the ups and downs, the struggles and turmoil of the town his book focused on, Hardwick Vt., and how “the best thing about Hardwick was Route 15,” Hewitt said. “Starting around 10 years ago, I started noticing the small-scale, agriculture-based businesses that were starting up. Young men began talking about creating a local food system. So I listened in.”
Once he experienced and actually saw how a town, only known for intersecting Route 15, transformed into the No. 1 producer of food per capita of all time, he decided to advocate for other communities to do the same and earn the benefits.
“Before a town decides to change their system to locally produced food, there are four commitments I believe that you should be aware of. One:,It shall feed the locals; two, It shall be circular; three, It shall be based upon sunshine; and four, It shall offer viability to producers.”
He explained, “In today’s economy, it is hard to afford healthy, good calorie foods. Many people want convenience over what is better for their health. These factors of time, money and health all take play in utilization of local growing food. You will have cheaper prices on goods, a greater local economy because the money is circling from producer to consumer, and healthier selections.”
The town of Hardwick, the focus of Hewitt’s book, is the home to around 25 self-grown or locally produced food stores. It has 14 dairy farms with a reputation that long preceded them. Using a local food-based business, Claire’s, established in 2008, Hewitt tried to create a mental map of the benefits of locally grown food businesses for the audience. “Imagine this,” he began, “Claire’s had a 70 percent rate of food being distributed and sold within 15 miles of its location, around $433,000 worth. $625,000 worth of food was being sold or given to its staff. When it opened, it created 23 jobs. This is just one of the many, many food-based businesses of that town. Now can you imagine and picture why Hardwick is prospering as much as it is now?”
“The average person in Pennsylvania,” Hewitt reflected, “when it comes to per capita direct sales, spends $5.96 per year on local grown food. Now this figure is a couple years old so it might be up a little. In Vermont, an average person spent $36.58 per year.” He concluded, “If a town changes its ways to locally grown food, it restores many things to one’s life and community. It restores transparency: you understand what is going into your food and what you are actually eating. It restores soil/environment: the U.S. bread basket lost one-half of its topsoil in the past 100 years, 30 times the supposed rate. This needs improved. It restores community: food manufacturing will increase jobs available, infuse a sense of greater and healthier meaning to the town’s diet and develop a greater sense of diversity and unity. Young adults will return or possibly stay in their local town if the jobs are there, and the access of healthy, local food is prevalent. When you take economy plus ourselves, you get a community, not just an ordinary community, but a strong, growing, prosperous one.”
For more information on locally grown food, students can attend the town hall meeting, “How Can the Clarion Region Become ‘Food Saved,’ April 7 and 8 at 7 p.m., at the Clarion Free Library on 644 Main St.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_facebook type=”standard”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_tweetmeme type=”horizontal”][/vc_column][/vc_row]