“Hardwick Getting Food Business Incubator” – Sally Pollack – The Burlington Free Press

The Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick is looking for a few good mixers — and skillets and kettles and bottling and packaging equipment. How about an oven or two, if you’ve got a commercial one kicking around?

The nonprofit organization, which is expected to open in early spring, is an affiliate of the Center for an Agricultural Economy. It will serve as a kind of incubator kitchen space, with a variety of support services, for people interested in starting or growing a food business. At the center, people can rent kitchen space and equipment, rentals that include a range of additional resources.

The Vermont Food Venture Center, which is relocating from Franklin County, will be in a newly-constructed facility of 15,000 square feet, said Tom Stearns, president of High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott and board president of the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

The move to Hardwick brings to the region another food/agriculture enterprise with a focus on local food systems, Vermont specialty products and sustainable agriculture. With area businesses such as Vermont Soy, High Mowing, Pete’s Greens, Claire’s Restaurant and Bar and Highfields Center for Composting, Hardwick has become a production hub — one known for innovation and entrepreneurship — in Vermont’s regional food systems.

The Center for an Agricultural Economy, a nonprofit based in Hardwick, plans to buy and operate the Food Venture Center upon its completion, Stearns said. In the meantime, the food center is seeking donations of kitchen equipment to help furnish the space, he said.

“We have a limited equipment budget,” Stearns said. “Very limited. This is a very expensive building and facility to make. This building will only be as effective as it can be if it has a huge diversity of really high- quality equipment in there.”

A number of food and food-related businesses in the state have agreed to donate equipment, including Ben and Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Stearns said.

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