By Lori Duff, ARRA Public Affairs Specialist VT/NH
Construction is just beginning on the new Food Venture Center 2, a non-profit kitchen incubator for specialty food producers in Hardwick, Vermont – and Wednesday nearly 50 people, including Sen. Patrick Leahy and USDA Rural Development VT/NH State Director Molly Lambert, showed up to celebrate.
The shared-use facility, Leahy said, would be a cornerstone in the State of Vermont’s efforts to promote agricultural innovation and the food-based economy.
“The Food Venture Center will strengthen the connection between consumers and the people who produce their food,” said Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director. “USDA takes great pride in its partnership in this project. The Food Venture Center is good for Hardwick, good for Vermonters and a great example of innovation, which will undoubtedly spark the interest of the entire nation.”
The new facility will provide affordable rental food production and packaging space to entrepreneurs interested in starting their own food-based business. It will also offer new cheesemaking and meat packing capabilities for local farmers and provide technical assistance to clients in the areas of food production, packaging and marketing. The building will replace the Fairfax-based Vermont Food Venture Center, founded in 1996.
The new $3.1 million facility is being developed by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association and will be operated by the Center for an Agricultural Economy. USDA Rural Development provided a $500,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant for the Center’s equipment.