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Monday, June 21, 2010

Follow the Hungry Bicyclists on their journey across the US

On June 9, 2010 Leonora Pepper and I (Rosie Baldwin) will be setting out on a food-filled trek across the Unites States. In the midst of brainstorming for this trip, we came to the conclusion that the only means for survival would be to feed ourselves continually, with hearty, rich, local foods. In order to maximize our eating opportunities I decided to make the trip a research venture and the foundation of my undergraduate Environmental Studies Thesis at the University of Vermont (UVM).
My goal for the thesis project is to discover a variety of local food producers across the USA, who are currently defining what it means to be “transformers” (as Jessica Prentice so accurately described it). These producers are taking local products and working to make delectable and sustainable foods that are consumed in the community in which they were grown. They are often part of a larger trend to revitalize local economies, and redefine what “development” can mean within their own communities.
So the question remains, who exactly are these people? What do their practices, livelihoods, and businesses look like? They could be artisan cheese makers who sell at the local market, fermentation specialists, underground restaurant owners, street food vendors, and much, much more. If their business is small enough they may not even be recognized outside their immediate community, yet their presence and practices have an impact nonetheless. Through a series of semi-structured interviews I hope to begin to record their stories, from their path to local food production, their methods and business models, to their own understanding of what a local economy means and how they see food systems being restructured in the years to come.
BUT, here’s the big challenge… Leonora and I are going to be so famished at the end (and beginning) of each day that we will need some advice about where to go to fill our bellies. Because these transformers are often small businesses, who have a loyal but small client base, it is not always easy to know which store or farmstand carries their product. In fact, we would appreciate recommendations, opinions, and tidbits of knowledge about the best of everything around town– any chance we get. This is not to say we won’t be avid local foods detectives (quite the opposite) but I do know that with a sore bum and low blood sugar we will surely appreciate any advice we can get.
So, this is where this whole blog thing comes into play. We’ll supply a map and space for comments, and hope that you can post useful info for the Hungry Bicyclists, allowing us to both research and devour local foods at every point along the way. In return, we hope to share with you the results (and stories and pictures), with a wide range of places to check out (and avoid) the next time you’re traveling through Northampton, MA or Seattle, WA.

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