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Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture

Vermont's specialty food industry is known nationally and internationally for its quality and innovative products. Vermont's producers have opened the doors to new markets by creating a stellar reputation for the "Vermont brand". In January, 2011, the Vermont Business Magazine reported that Vermont was second in the nation for increased export sales. The economic impact of specialty food products for Vermont exceeds $1.2 billion a year. Processing of farm products into value-added and specialty products increases the value of our agricultural sector by over 200 percent. It is an exciting time to be a specialty food producer in Vermont which is emerging as a national leader and model that represents a robust, economically viable, socially and environmentally responsible, healthy food system. The VT Agency of Agriculture and VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development have teamed up and are actively working together to enhance the efforts behind the direction and support of the Farm to Plate ten year strategic plan that will move the Vermont Food System forward. This renewed partnership will vertically integrate the surge in emerging agricultural businesses and the economic development boom occurring in the Vermont food system.

This surge of energy and excitement in Vermont agriculture is being coined the "renaissance of agriculture". Examples include renewed interest in growing hops and grains for Vermont breweries and bakeries, expanding grape and wine production, an explosion in artisan cheese production and on-farm dairy processing, increasing demand for Vermont produced and processed meats, and Vermont continues to experience rapid growth in farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA's). The Vermont food system ramp up has resulted in the creation and establishment of food hubs and food centers across the state to help meet the needs of food aggregation, distribution, storage, and linking producers with buyers (to name a few: Vermont Food Venture Center, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, Intervale Center, Green Mountain Farm to School, Addison County Relocalization Network, Windham Farm and Food Network, and Mad River Food Hub).

Vermont is a great state to be a specialty food business. There are numerous support organizations and tremendous resources in Vermont that are identified in this manual. The Vermont Specialty Foods Association (VSFA) is the country's oldest and most active state specialty foods association. The VSFA obtains grant funds to assist specialty food businesses with professional development opportunities and participation in large trade shows to access new markets. In addition, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture has been spear-heading efforts with the University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies, and producers to establish Vermont as a Taste of Place destination and to enhance marketing of the "Vermont Brand".

Finally, Vermont is in an ideal geographical location with access to large regional markets in Boston, New York City, Montreal, and Philadelphia. These customers are driving the demand for quality agricultural products with their interest in knowing what they are eating, how it was produced, where it comes from and who is doing the producing. In response to this demand Vermont is seeing a whole new cadre of people moving into Vermont agriculture to supply the quality of locally and regionally produced agricultural products being called for by customers throughout the northeast. This activity is making for exciting opportunities for Vermont Specialty Food Businesses. We hope that this manual will help you begin a successful journey in becoming a Vermont Specialty Food Business.


Chuck Ross
Vermont Secretary of Agriculture