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Krupp: Invest Local

01/12/10 5:55PM By Ron Krupp
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(HOST) According to commentator Ron Krupp, the "Buy Local" initiative has produced an offshoot in which serious efforts are being made to "Invest Local."

(KRUPP)  Last summer, I heard Woody Tasch speak at the annual meeting of the Vermont Fresh Network at Shelburne Farms. Tasch talked about investment strategies appropriate to the 21st century. He asked the following questions. Could there be an alternative stock exchange dedicated to small, local initiatives? And what if people invested 50 percent of their assets within 50 miles of their homes?
I sat at the local authors table after the talk, where I met James Macon of Criterion Ventures. His goal is to create innovative models that attract capital to local farm and food initiatives in Vermont. I found myself wondering why Macon would focus on Vermont. After all, we're just small potatoes -1/500th of the U.S. population.
Macon explained that part of the reason for his enthusiasm is that, per capita, the Green Mountain state is at the center of the local farm and food movement in the U.S. Vermont has more community-supported agricultural initiatives and farmers' markets than any other state in the country, as well as artisan cheese-makers, beer and artisan bread makers.
In the last three years people have begun to invest in local  restaurants and general stores - like the Bees Knees restaurant in Morrisville, Clair's Restaurant in Hardwick and the Old Brick Store in Charlotte.
This trend of cooperation and collaboration in a community setting is taking off in other directions as well. Regional food-hubs are meeting around the state to address issues like community food security, the development of slaughterhouses, canneries, cold storage facilities, and the creation of year-round winter markets.
The next time I met with James Macon over bagels and coffee, he told me he was working with Sugarsnap on an expansion plan. Sugarsnap is a small catering retail/take-out business that also grows 3 acres of vegetables in the Intervale in Burlington. The plan is for Sugarsnap to expand their location on Riverside Avenue.
Their hope for the future is to be an anchor for a much larger centralized production kitchen in the Intervale as part of the new Food Enterprise Center. The waste heat from the McNeil Wood Burning Plant in the Intervale would provide energy for the Food Enterprise Center, as well as warming a number of greenhouses.
One thing's for sure. There is a cultural shift taking place across the Vermont landscape. People are thirsting for community involvement in food and farming. The values of this new movement are preservation and restoration instead of extraction and consumption. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.
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