Rowan Jacobsen’s report from Vermont’s Mad River Food Hub, “From
Farm to Table” (November/December
2013), did an excellent
job of describing the
opportunities and constraints facing local food
systems. One overarching challenge, it seems,
is that many of these
systems su=er a bit of
a split personality: on
the one hand, they want
to provide sustainably
produced food for consumers; on the other
hand, they start down the slippery slope
of scaling up and adding middlemen in
an e=ort to give consumers convenience.
Trying to find a balance is a challenge for
any farmer or local food enthusiast.
Lately, there has been a lot of talk in
the environmental sustainability movement about community resilience, but
the Mad River Food Hub’s products are
pretty costly — some are upward of twenty
dollars per pound — too costly, in fact, for
many folks in the Mad River Valley community to buy on a regular basis. The
soup operation has similar problems, as
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does the CSA. Yes, they are gaining many
new customers, but it seems like these
new folks have quite a bit of extra income.
If selling to schools and
cafeterias didn’t make
enough money, then
who is this local food
for? Only those who can
a=ord to pay for it?
There is nothing
necessarily wrong with
making an expensive
product, but let’s not
hold it up as the next
great emerging model of
local food. If we do, then
we’ll only ever provide for wealthy folks.
JADE ALICANDRO MACE
In her essay “The Science of Citizenship”
(November/December 2013), Belle Boggs
makes the important point that teaching
to standardized tests has put an emphasis
on reading and math at the expense of essential science education. Testing mania
has also hurt the teaching of art, music,
physical education, history, foreign languages, and nearly every other subject.
Charter schools, however, are not the
answer to this problem. Charters siphon
o= top students and leave the hardest-to-
educate students to public schools, which
are then accused of failure. Instead,
we should be strengthening our pub-
lic schools: we should follow the model
for success pioneered in Finland, where
there’s intensive teacher training, very
little testing, a wide variety of subjects
taught, and an emphasis on equal access
to education for all.
Every student in America should have
access to a high-quality, well-rounded
Thanks to Belle Boggs for her stories
of innovative teaching. In my experience,
the best thing you can give a child is the
desire to seek knowledge of the world
without being pushed. Often, that means
turning the whole urban-rural environment into a teaching tool.
Teaching in a box with students lined
up in rows to passively receive informa-
tion from an instructor has its limitations.
I understand this style of instruction was
originally taken from the Prussian military
under Frederick the Great, who was trying
to mold a common German identity out of
a bunch of fractious Germanic states. For
him, conformity was the key, and one can
see how it’s led to “teaching to the test.”
Mainly, though, we learn by doing;
teaching in a box about stu= “out there”
Digging Deeper with Local Food
When it comes to local foods, there’s little shortage of entrepreneurs and
farmers looking to enter the market, or of conscientious shoppers eager to
buy their tasty wares. But there is a shortage of infrastructure to support
such seemingly basic transactions. In this issue of Orion , learn ho w one
craftsman found new and better ways to get local meats from farm to
table. Bon appétit!
NATURE / CULTURE / PLACE
NOVEMBER| DECEMBER 2013
PHOTOGRAPH l COREY HENDRICKSON
ND13_cov1-4_FR2S TUDS.indd 1 1/21/14 12: 38 PM