Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reviving a rural economy, with agriculture, no less

A story by Marian Burros in yesterday's New York Times tells how Hardwick, Vermont, has re-made its economy from one based on granite extraction to one based on agriculture -- in particular, organic and artisan foods. The headline is "Uniting around Food to Save an Ailing Town," and it's been on the NYT top-10 emailed list for the past 24-hours or so. Here are some excerpts:
Facing a Main Street dotted with vacant stores, residents of this hardscrabble community of 3,000 are reaching into its past to secure its future, betting on farming to make Hardwick the town that was saved by food.

With the fervor of Internet pioneers, young artisans and agricultural entrepreneurs are expanding aggressively, reaching out to investors and working together to create a collective strength never before seen in this seedbed of Yankee individualism.
* * *
For the past two years, many of these farmers and businessmen have met informally once a month to share experiences for business planning and marketing or pass on information about, say, a graphic designer who did good work on promotional materials or government officials who’ve been particularly helpful.
In addition, these folks share capital and make loans to one another. They also promote each other's products.

What's happening in this corner of northern Vermont is an exciting manifestation of the "locavore" and slow food movements, not least because it is also growing the local economy and, well, helping keep it rural. The town's manager is quoted as saying that these ag-related enterprises have added 75-100 jobs in the past few years.

The cooperation angle is particularly interesting, too, though I am not sure it is as novel as Burros suggests. Nevertheless, this quote from Andrew Meyer, owner of Vermont Soy, summarizes his views on why efforts in Hardwick are succeeding: "We have something unique here: a strong sense of community, connections to the working landscape and a great work ethic.”

4 comments:

Taintus said...

Thanks for the wonderful post. I'm currently doing research Otaki, a small village in central Japan, looking at pathways to revitalization. So, it's nice to see a success story.

Sense of community and willingness to cooperate and share resources seem to be key components. For various reasons those social and cultural structures appear to be somewhat lacking here in Otaki.

I think I'll be able to use this story as an example as I continue working with the community here.

You can read more about Otaki at my blog: In the Pines.

Thanks,

Taintus

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