Demand For Specialty Food Prompts New Food Processing Centers

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The increasing number of Vermont specialty food producers – many of them farmers – is creating a demand for facilities where they can make their products. 

A new business in Chittenden County is the latest food processing center to come on line – and there are more in the planning stages.

Vermont specialty food producers are turning out everything from applesauce to zucchini bread. 

Many have outgrown their home kitchens but they’re still too small to invest in a commercial facility. That’s where food processing centers come in. 

The centers rent commercial kitchen space and provide expertise. In recent years two high profile processing facilities have opened in Vermont:  The non-profit Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick and the privately owned Mad River Food Hub in Waitsfield.

Now a new food processing center called Micropack has opened in a South Burlington industrial park. Glenn Coville is a co-partner.

Coville operates an organic farm in Craftsbury and produces a line of botanical products. He says the idea behind Micropack is to provide other farmers and producers with a facility to make value added agricultural products.

"Farmers really need value added products to make small farms work, so really in my mind it’ about creating infrastructure," says Coville.

MyCopack has five clients so far, with more waiting in the wings to use the baking, bottling, cooking and processing equipment at the facility.

Each of Vermont’s food processing facilities has a slightly different focus. Coville says MyCopack will cater to a variety of food processors but there’s an emphasis on herbal and botanical products.  An apothecary will make it possible to produce tinctures and extracts.

Coville’s partner in the business is Chris Chaisson. Chaisson says local producers will make up the majority of the processing center’s clients, but the emphasis on botanicals and the Chittenden County location should attract customers from further away. 

According to Chaisson, "It’s a really good spot as far as shipping and also working with out of state customers.  It’s a place they can fly into, it’s a place they can drive to very easily rather than having it be very rurally located."

There are more processing centers in the works.

The Vermont Farmers Food Center has purchased a three acre industrial site in Rutland to establish a new processing center.

Greg Cox of the center says the new processing facilities are changing how farming is done in Vermont. One example he cites is a group of farmers who are specializing in growing crops to be frozen.

"They are specifically growing crops that can be frozen, labeled and sold in the wintertime, adding value," Cox explains. " The co-ops have all said that frozen foods is one of the fastest growing sections in their stores."

Cox says the plan is to open the Rutland facility in three years.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture says other food processing centers are also in the planning stages. 

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