Dumbo Feather

JUDY WICKS IS A LOCAL FOOD LEGEND

SUBJECT Judy Wicks

OCCUPATION Entrepreneur

INTERVIEWER Anja Lyngbaek

PHOTOGRAPHER Jean Brubaker

LOCATION Philadelphia, US

DATE April, 2020

I am sitting across from Judy Wicks, local economy pioneer in the US, and mentor to a multitude of activists concerned with the survival of independent businesses and place-based economies. We are facing each other on a screen: me from a homestead in the mountains of Mexico and Judy from her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Some years back I heard Judy speak in New York and was deeply inspired by her creativity, integrity and resolve. Her visionary restauranteering paved the way for a farm-to-table movement, while her efforts to unite independent businesses and producers locally have acted as counter-movement to corporate America. Efforts like BALLE—the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies—have also inspired a host of people in other parts of the world, people like me concerned with the onslaught of a speculative global economy that severs all connection to place and undermines the very source of our existence, from local livelihoods to our ability to provide for basic needs.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more from Judy, especially about the steps to creating local living economies, which she describes as “protecting what we love—nature, our children and our communities.”

ANJA LYNGBAEK: You’re a local economy champion and a visionary ahead of your time. How and why did you get started on this path?

JUDY WICKS: Well let’s see! I grew up in a small town where I witnessed first-hand the role of small business owners. I also came from a family that had a large vegetable garden. My mother and grandmother were cooking with the seasons, going to farmers’ markets and preserving food. I think that created a foundation. When I graduated from college in 1969, I went to live in an Eskimo village in Alaska. I saw a culture which, like most indigenous cultures, was based on sharing, partnership, generosity and collaboration. This was a contrast to the consumer culture that I had grown up with. In the United States, as in many industrialised countries, we are bombarded by advertisements to make us feel insecure and buy certain products in order to be more beautiful, more whatever. This desire for more is unending. By going outside of my culture, I saw the ugliness of the consumer culture from a distance.

And you started White Dog Café in 1983—a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. I’m curious about the impacts that a single business like yours can

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