Vermont Food Venture Center hits milestones
In 2018, the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) in Hardwick reached its seventh year of operations. The 15,000 square-foot farm and food business incubator was launched through a collaborative effort between the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Northeastern Vermont Development Association. The incubator itself had previously been in operation in Fairfax, and with the rebuild, became one of the Vermont’s newest components of local food system infrastructure and innovation.
“We’re thrilled to be celebrating this birthday milestone,” said Sarah Waring, executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy. “And we have so many partners to thank who have been there to support the work over the past seven years.”
Since opening, the VFVC has been home to over 100 small food and farm production clients, with the majority of those being from Vermont. These entrepreneurs have made over 300 recipes and food products using the shared-use kitchens and equipment at the Venture Center.
“These entrepreneurs drive from Randolph and Berlin and beyond,” said Connor Gorham, VFVC facilities manager. “But the most exciting thing is that we are also drawing in clients from out of state –– sometimes we get folks driving from Connecticut, New Hampshire, or even Brooklyn!”
The model of the shared-use food incubator is a difficult one to manage, and building infrastructure is not ideal for every community. In the Northeast Kingdom, a regional food system plan was developed first, which identified critical needs for food businesses in storage, processing and business services. The financing for the VFVC was made possible by grants from the Economic Development Administration, the Community Development Block Grant program through the Town of Hardwick, and the VT Housing and Conservation Board.
“The best part about the work we do is the chance to work with the Vermont producers,” Mr. Gorham said. “And this Meet the Maker video series is our best way to tell their stories.”
Staff at the Venture Center worked with ten farm and food business clients over the last year, with support for marketing and business services through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant. Each client worked with an expert in brand identification and marketing, as well as a videographer, to create short video pieces that articulates their mission, showcases their products, and can be used as a promotional tool.
This month, the Meet the Maker video series has been released, and all ten of the videos are available at the Center for an Agricultural Economy website: hardwickagriculture.org. To find out more about Meet the Maker, or about the VFVC milestones, please contact Lylee Rauch-Kacenski, co-marketing coordinator at [email protected], or (802)-472-5362. –– from the Center for an Agricultural Economy.