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Food Saves Vermont Town

October 8, 2008

Last night Barrack Obama said that green energy had the potential to create 5 million new jobs, but in Hardwick, VT., sustainable agriculture has already revitalized their economy and created 75-100 new jobs for the community of 3000.

Vermont is a rural state with wind-farms, methane digesters, legions of dairy farmers and a burgeoning independence movement, so it’s not surprising that they are among the first to look to the soil for help in a time of economic crisis.

There is no one figure behind Hardwick’s success: the key to their food reform has been cooperation.Companies like Vermont Soy, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens have not only been using each other’s waste products, processing facilities and institutional know-how, they’ve also lent each other around $300,000 in short term loans, reports The New York Times.

This kind of collective effort not only recovers the finances of those involved and brings new capital into the community, it also helps a town like Hardwick fend for its own nourishment. Hardwickians can now purchase things like tofu made from local beans, artisan cheese, organic beef and local butter, products that would have been impossible to find a few years ago.

Hardwick is only looking at growth at this point – not only do they plan on starting a year-round farmer’s market, but next year the Vermont food venture center, which offers kitchen space and business advice to small businesses, plans on moving to Hardwick, making room for more people to make a profit off of this new economy.

There’s a breed of nouveau hippy at the front of movements like this: they’ve taken causes like environmentalism and sustainable food to heart, but they’ve got the determination and business sense that one might have seen in an I-banker before they lost their job. Unlike the credit marketeers, they are dealing with products they can touch, smell and eat, backed with something as understandable as soil. The agricultural economy is by no means separate from the financial crisis in the country today, but towns like Hardwick prove that their is a different kind of logic at play here than in other sectors.

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