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Krupp: Local Food Production Update

Recently, the Burlington Free Press reported that "Vermont's 10-year goal of adding 1,700 farm-to-plate related jobs has been met in just four and a half years, with credit given to consumer demand." These numbers came from the 2013 annual report of Farm to Plate, an initiative designed to boost the food and farm economy in Vermont. The food manufacturing sector experienced the most growth. Vermont Smoke and Cure, for example, moved into a 21,000 square facility in Hinesburg - nearly triple the size of the original plant in Barre.

The Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick is a multi-use processing facility that offers food business incubation and support services such as the Vermont Small Business Development Center. Some of the producers there are Green Mountain Marinades and Vermont Kale Chips. Support services include recipe and process development, co-packing and value-added processing. The center has 15,000 square feet with a large industrial kitchen that serves more than 30 small food producers.

The 5,000 square foot Mad River Food Hub in Waitsfield operates as a business incubator for producers and processors by offering food processing rooms, meat and vegetable food processing, storage and refrigeration and distribution. Some of the producers there are Tonewood Maple, Vermont Bean Crafters and Applecheek Farm.

The newest education and training initiative is The Vermont Tech Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems in Randolph Center. Their mission is to tap into the unmet potential of the farm and food economy. The programs at Vermont Tech teach practical, hands-on techniques in diversified agriculture ranging from vegetable, fruit and berry production to dairy herd management and technical skills such as meat-cutting and welding.

In addition to these programs, Vermont Tech will build a dairy and food processing facility for college and community use. The facility will have two production spaces, one to process fluid milk and a second to process, prepare, package and freeze vegetables, fruit and berries. The food processing aspect of the program is designed to teach farmers - and aspiring farmers - how to increase the profitability of food by processing it into cheese, yogurt, liquor, beer, sausage, honey products and more.

Students can see all aspects of a functioning agriculture system in practice on the campus - from the soil to plant to animals to food processing and the dining hall; then on to waste handling, methane digesting and then back to the soil to grow more food. They'll experience the whole cycle of farming and food. Dr. Chris Dutton, director of the new project puts it well when he says, "The human soul needs some physical contact with the earth. We have this opportunity, even with short courses, to explore what it is to make food."

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay. His most recent book is titled: Lifting The Yoke - Local Solutions To America's Farm And Food Crisis.
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