Pin It

Grazing at the Vermont Food Venture Center's Grand Opening 

click to enlarge 6a00d83451b91969e20168e51840e4970c-pi.jpg

On this gray day, there was one hopping place where you could lose yourself in a kaleidoscope of locally made morsels, from peach salsa, smoked trout and black currant simple syrup to gin, sweet potato dip, jalapeño chips and Bayley Hazen Blue cheese — and it wasn't City Market.

Friday marked the official ribbon cutting for the new Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, an ambitious 15,000-square-foot kitchen incubator and food processing center about a mile outside of Hardwick's downtown. Though the center has actually been operating since the summer, this was the day in which supporters such as Sen. Patrick Leahy and Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross gathered to cut the proverbial ribbon. 

Key among the private and public grants that covered the $3 million cost was $450,000 in federal funds secured by Leahy, who was clearly chuffed by the hundreds who turned out for the opening. "Wow. This is something. I wanted to be here to thank you — all of you — for making me proud to be a Vermonter," he said.

The center, operated by the Center for the Agricultural Economy, operated from Fairfax until a space crunch set backers on a search for a new locale.

click to enlarge 6a00d83451b91969e20162ff224e14970d-pi.jpg

The centerpiece here is the shared kitchens, rentable by the hour, where food producers can mix, bake and boil their wares. They can also package and store goods at the center, or take advantage of a range of recipe and business consulting. Among those using the center already — or about to start — are Sumptuous Syrups, Për's Smoked, Yee Yee's Vermont Specialty Foods and Cellars at Jasper Hill, a flagship tenant who will mentor other cheesemakers here. 

Sharing her tangy sweet-potato dips was Lisa Johnson of YummyYammy, who comes here once a week to roast and whip New England sweet potatoes into a range of dips.  "I want to change the way we think about sweet potatoes!" she declared. "They're a superfood, and fabulous for you."

But logistics can get in the way of passion. Johnson was operating her 2-year-old business out of her Norwich kitchen when she realized she needed more room to move. "I had nine Crock Pots going on my kitchen stove for four hours. I reached a point where I had to have a place like this to come, or I needed to shut down," she said. 

Though the drive from Norwich to Hardwick is 90 minutes, it enables Johnson to ramp up production so she can keep up with orders from throughout Vermont, and now in Michigan and Minnesota. She produces 28 cases of dip during each weekly production session. "This place really made it possible," Johnson said. She's now poised to roll out a sweet-potato pancake mix, and has visions of sauces, burgers and other morsels.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Tags: ,

Pin It

About The Author

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch

Food writer Corin Hirsch joined the Seven Days staff in 2011. She is the author of Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England, published by History Press in 2014.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation