Can Food Save Cities? It May Save a Town.

Bike Smoothie production during Bike Lexington, Kentucky

Bike Smoothie production during Bike Lexington, Kentucky

We were just talking about food carts, food trucks, street vendors -- or their absence in Lexington, except at street festivals and the Lexington Farmers Market. One of the good people at Hardwood Pizza sent a comment that included this: "The current regulations on 'food carts' are oppressive and make it financially difficult to keep a business like this." (And, by the way, Hardwood Pizza plans to be at the Spotlight Lexington downtown festival "for two weeks straight serving lunch, dinner and the after hours bar crowd." That's September 24 - October 10: Lots of pizza opportunities!)

Local food cart at Mountain Mushroom Festival, Irvine, Kentucky

Local food cart at Mountain Mushroom Festival, Irvine, Kentucky

The regulatory challenges mean there may not be lots of opportunities to eat other locally grown foods from street carts anytime soon. Here are two additional thoughts about that. Scary first, hopeful second.

Scary: We don't even have food carts yet, to speak of, as ways for ambitious entrepreneurs to get a start in the food business, buy and sell local food ingredients, and expand our culinary options. Yet already on the west coast (from whence most things roll eastward) mainstream food businesses want in on the street corners. Sharon Bernstein says so in the Los Angeles Times.

The LA Times story brings up a grim picture of street carts appearing all around, but instead of Texas or Korean barbecue built of Kentucky meats, instead of Kentucky soup beans-n-greens-n-cornbread, instead of Laotian rice with Kentucky chicken, we could get the same burgers and chicken fingers already on offer redundantly-repeatedly-repetitively-over-and-over at every fast food strip in town. Stating the obvious: This would not help our physical, agricultural, cultural, or economic health.

Enough of that. Perhaps we'll all come to our senses.

Here's something more hopeful. In at least one small town -- Hardwick, Vermont, population 3,174 -- entrepreneurs who grow and process food, grow organic seeds, make compost, run restaurants, and manage food processing facilities are collaborating toward an ever more local food system. This town's story -- actually more a region's story -- may offer a few lessons for larger places like ours. Marian Burros covered the story for the New York Times in 2008, in an article titled "Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town."

Vermont freelance writer Ben Hewitt intends to share Hardwick's early lessons with the world. He wrote a story for Gourmet magazine in 2008, "The Town that Food Saved", and expanded the story into a 2009 book of the same name, subtitled "How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food."

It's that promise of vitality we can realize in central Kentucky if we support, encourage, collaborate, and "entrepreneur" around our incredible food and land. We have a context quite different from Hardwick's, and we have good people at work on building pieces of a food system appropriate for our size and situation. We have many wonderful assets and many good options. Each of us helps a little every time we buy from local growers and producers.

You don't get Savoring Kentucky posts by email, but you would like to, free? Here is our 110 percent no spam guarantee and email subscription information.

The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 87.

116 World EQ Game Postrona