The 2011 Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan identified the significant role of processing in the state economy: “Vermont has at least 457 food processing establishments that employ at least 4,356 people and is the second-largest manufacturing sector employer in the state, behind computer and electronic products. The average wage in the food processing and manufacturing industry is $37,612 per year. Food manufacturing is one of only two manufacturing sectors that saw employment growth from 2007 to 2010. The F2P plan encompasses all types and scales of agricultural-related production and processing, from small-scale diversified production to commodity dairy production, from on-farm processing to commercial scale food manufacturing.
The plan defined processing as, “the transformation of a raw product or products into a value-added product prior to entering the marketplace (e.g., livestock must be slaughtered, processed, and packaged before entering the marketplace for sale as meat).
There are a number of small-scale food processors in the region, including bakeries, dairies and creamers, maple sugar processors, and bottling operations (many of which are the actual producers as well but may buy bulk maple sugar from other farmers), and other specialty operations are based in Central Vermont: Grand View Winery, Fresh Tracks Vineyard and Winery, the Alchemist Cannery, Lawson’s Finest, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Cabot Creamery, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, Vermont Smoke and Cure, and the new Mad River Food Hub. In addition, several large food processing businesses are centrally based or have processing plants in the area: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Booth Brother Dairy (owned by HP Hood LLC), and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. CVRPC is in the process of mapping the processors based on data collected in-house and the Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) data.
The Vermont Food Venture Center (VFVC) opened in November 2011. VFVC is a 15,000 square foot food processing facility and kitchen incubator is a one-of-a-kind facility located in a thriving region that celebrates food, farm and local economy. Operated by the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), a non-profit organization located in Hardwick, Vermont whose mission is to bring together resources in order to support, facilitate and advance a sustainable, agricultural economy in a rural community. The VFVC, as a program of the CAE, supports this mission by providing infrastructure and support for value-added production, minimal processing and business services to emerging and existing food businesses, organizations and the community.
The Mad River Food Hub (MRFH) opened in January, 2012. MRFH is a 4,000 square foot USDA shared Meat & Vegetable Processing Facility in Waitsfield Vermont that also provides storage & distribution together with business consulting. Currently, their customers include 17 Farms, 6 small holders, 19 value added producers plus a few food hubs. Within the first year of operation, their 3 processing rooms have been in use for over 300 days, slightly over 40% capacity; their customers processed over 70 tons of food and the MRFH transported $350,000 of products for them.