Friday, September 16, 2011

The Vermont Food Venture Center is Open for Business.


September 16, 2011, Hardwick, VT - The Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC), a program of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) is open in Hardwick and ready to support food based entrepreneurs. “The VFVC can support diverse food manufacturing processes with our wide selection of commercial processing equipment,” said George Keener, who serves as Operations Manager.
 In the shared use kitchens, available for rent by the hour,  the VFVC has slicers, mixers, grinders, several types of ovens, tilt skillets, blast freezers, vacuum sealers, labellers, and a variety of other equipment to process and package almost any type of food. Additionally, technical assistance is available for recipe development, business development, packaging selection and distributor access.

Lisa Johnson, owner of YummyYammy, in Norwich, VT creates dips made from northeastern grown sweet potatoes.   “I have worked for three years to develop my food company.” Johnson said in a recent interview, “The VFVC helped me launch my product from a crockpot in my kitchen to a business prepared for national distribution.” Packaging company representatives brought to the area by the VFVC have significantly reduced Johnson’s container costs  “I still have to put in long days of processing” said Johnson, “but thanks to the VFVC, I can efficiently turn out cases of product at a time.”

Carmella Ram, owner of the Magic Spoon Bakery in Hardwick, VT has operated a successful bakery from her second floor apartment for five years, but has outgrown her tiny space; she will be using the bakery at the VFVC to increase her production capacity, freeing up critical time for sales calls and distribution. Ram stated “I couldn’t grow any more in my space; the VFVC will let me increase the size of my company and offer more jobs to local people.” Like Johnson, Ram has utilized the diverse technical assistance offered through the VFVC. “I have learned about labeling and packaging that will help as my business expands” Ram said.
Heidi Krantz of the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) works with companies to grow and develop their businesses. Many of the food processors using the VFVC have accessed her services including Linda Fox of Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont, a manufacturer of “farm to bar” products for mixed drinks. “The VtSBDC has been such a help,” said Fox.  “:Heidi coached me on my business plan which allowed me to access grant funds for web site development.”

Annie Rowell of the VFVC is developing the processing capacity to make the VFVC a resource to all Vermonters by increasing the accessibility and year-round availability of local food.  Through minimal processing of local fruits and vegetables, the equipment and facilities at the VFVC can be used to bring more local produce into local markets, through both retail as well as farm to institution sales.

The VFVC is able to support recipe development and food safety procedures for food processors thanks to funding provided by the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center. Dale Conoscenti, a research chef employed part time by the VFVC is available to processors using the facility to fine tune their use of ingredients, scale up production batches and develop quality control steps.

In addition to processing and technical assistance the VFVC rents dry storage, freezer, and cooler space to local businesses. Helm Notterman and his son Ben of Snug Valley Farm and the Frozen Butcher use freezer space to store their grass fed beef. “We are in a growth phase right now,” the elder Nottermann explained, “It is really helpful to rent freezer space while our business is expanding.”

Keener is overseeing the on-going development of the processing and storage capacity at the VFVC. “We are finishing up the final section of the building and can accommodate food product businesses that need to rent larger space on a long term basis.” The VFVC has a total of 2500 square feet that can be configured to accommodate flexible needs for potential clients. “At this point we can be creative in how the space is completed” Keener explained.

For more information or to arrange use of the facility,  contact George Keener at of 802-472-5362 ext 1.

Media Contact:
Elena Gustavson

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