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HARDWICK â€“ This was the place to be Friday. Over 300 people from around the state and beyond came to the Grand Opening Celebration of the Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC), hosted by the Center for an Agricultural Economy and Northern Enterprises.
The event was packed with politicians and bustling with bureaucrats, but shaking hands and rubbing elbows with them was not the sole purpose for the gathering. Instead, people gathered as a new community and to congratulate each other on a job well done to get the facility to this point.
A blend of farmers, agriculturalists, food producers, bankers and lawyers were involved in a full day of events. There was everything from taste-testing foods and products made in Vermont, to speeches, to guided tours of the facilities. A few of the products included Haymakers Punch made by the Vermont Switchel Company to Deanoâ€™s Jalapenos, to cheese made by Jasper Mine, to bear fat salve made by CateHill Orchard.
"Wow!" was the word of the day. It was the first word keynote speaker Senator Patrick Leahy said when he started his speech. It continued to be echoed by the speakers that followed.
â€śJeezum Crow, we did it!â€ť was the phrase Leahy used to finish his speech.
The Vermont Food Venture Center started out as an idea on a single sheet of paper. Ground was broken for the $3-million facility on July 7, 2010, and the project grew into a 15,000 square foot building.
The VFVC is a shared-use kitchen incubator for value-added and specialty food producers and is operated by The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE). The mission of the VFVC is to bring together resources in order to support, facilitate, and advance a sustainable, agricultural economy in a rural community. It provides infrastructure and support for value-added production, minimal processing and business services to emerging and existing food businesses, organization, and the community.
Although the VFVC is physically housed in Hardwick, the impact threads throughout the state, nationally and, in time, internationally.
Donna Higgins, executive director of Vermont North Country Chamber of Commerce, offered support by saying, â€śThe Chamber is thrilled to have the opportunity to be there for this agricultural venture center....â€ť
More information about the VFVC is available at www.vermontfoodventurecenter.org.