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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Local Agripreneurship: Building Community and Capital?

Somewhat related to my Tuesday post on local entrepreneurship, a post from Rebeccas Terk of Flying Tomato Farms discusses local food, "agripreneurship," and Ben Hewitt's new book The Town That Food Saved. The book focuses on Hardwick, Vermont, population 3200, working-class, low wages, high unemployment. hardwick has seen a surge in local agriculture businesses, operations making their living producing food for the local market.

Hewitt calls the new (most thirty-something) businesses owners “agrepreneurs”–they’re not your typical back-to-the land types who are just looking for a little farmstead and a modest living–they’re in it to make money.

But they’re also in it to “make a difference”–in terms of their community and their sustainable mission. The question Hewitt raises, which is what really makes this book different than others in the genre, is whether the locals will get on board with that difference and that mission.

Hewitt balances the book by talking to a number of Hardwick-area residents who see local food as a means for a much more radical shift in the consumer-and-capital-driven model that the world has moved to, and those discussions are, to me, what constitutes the real heart of this book–is local food about community and supporting our neighbors, or is it about making money and providing jobs–and shipping some of that high-end product (that many locals may not be able to afford) to not-so-local markets?

Or is it both? [Rebecca Terk, "Local Food Lit: The Town That Food Saved," Flying Tomato Farms, 2010.04.14]

Local agripreneurship isn't a gold mine; Terk notes that many of Hardwick's food start-ups are still strugglign to get out of debt and post profits. But they are taking a swing at independent economic development, based on their own sweat and resources. That's something all of us with the prairie pioneer spirit can respect.

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