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Krupp: Local Food Initiatives

03/02/12 5:55PM By Ron Krupp
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(Host)  Commentator Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who is often asked how Vermont can become more independent of the global industrial food system. He says two new initiatives in Hardwick and Waitsfield should help.   

(Krupp) If Vermont is to become less dependent on outside food sources, it will need to develop the necessary infrastructure to develop a more sustainable economy. Two facilities recently opened that should bring the Green Mountain state closer to this goal. 

    The new Vermont Food Venture Center officially opened it doors this winter in Hardwick. The 15,000 square foot facility includes a large industrial kitchen where entrepreneurs can develop small businesses. Twenty five 25 producers are already using it to make value-added products like jalepeno chips, cheesecakes, pickles, farm-raised salmon and haymaker's switchel - a traditional farm drink of apple cider vinegar, water and honey.

  The venture center concept is not new. A smaller facility has been operating since 1996 but outgrew its space. Thanks to a core group of farmers and entrepreneurs in the area Hardwick was successful in moving the center to the industrial park. Chuck Ross, the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture said at the opening of the new facility, "We're in Hardwick for a reason. It had to do with some great entrepreneurs. Projects like this don't happen because of money alone."   

Hardwick Selectman Marcus Brown's father was a dairy farmers for 40 years. Brown spoke about the passion it takes to be a farmer.  And he says he sees passion in the new farmers coming along.     

But Hardwick isn't the only center of Vermont's local food universe. Over in the Mad River Valley in Waitsfield, the Mad River Food Hub also recently opened it doors. The Hub will provide a wide variety of commercial scale meat and vegetable processing equipment, as well as on-site storage and distribution services to local market outlets. It will help farmers and chefs tap into the local market with locally raised meat, homemade sausage, and other value-added food products.    

This 5,000 square foot facility offers its clients affordable, daily rental of state licensed meat and vegetable processing rooms. One of them is Shirley Richardson of Tannery Hill Farm, who has started Vermont Chevon Meats, a new sales and marketing company located in the Northeast Kingdom. They're dedicated to connecting goat producers who process the meat - with restaurants, caterers, food coops, ethnic markets and other potential consumers. Another client, Vermont Bean Crafters is producing bean burgers and hummus. When I asked Jacob Finsen, the director of the food hub where the beans were coming from, he said New York State, but he's hoping they'll eventually be grown in Vermont as they once were. And with the opening of these two new facilities, that hope is one step closer to reality.

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