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Addison County sets 10-year ag goals

MIDDLEBURY - The Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN) has released a study titled "The 2010 Strategic Plan for the Addison County Local Foods Collaborative" which explores how the county can continue to grow the local foods market and significantly expand opportunities for its growers and processors.

Addison County is the largest market for local foods per capita in the state of Vermont. The plan's 10-year goal is to grow the local food market from a current estimated 5 percent share to 15 percent. The report highlights three key initiatives that will accelerate that growth: 1) launch a wholesale produce market to better serve local institutions and to build the critical mass needed for food processing; 2) hire a Farm-to-School coordinator to coordinate local food purchasing, gardening and food education programs in the three core school districts in the county, and 3) develop a Local Food Index to create a baseline metric for the local food market to be able to measure growth going forward.

Addison County is the leading agricultural county in Vermont. It is well-known for its dairy farms and a constellation of important businesses like AgriMark and Monument Farms, Misty Knoll and Maple Meadows, Sunrise and Champlain Orchards. But Addison County is also home to a regional brewery, a national cidery and two wineries, a regional meat processor, producers of maple syrup, honey and artisanal cheeses and commercial growers of grains, fruits, vegetables and berries, not to mention grass-fed beef and pastured meats.

The local food market has also grown dramatically thanks to increased distribution through retailers like the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, Greg's Meat Market and Mountain Greens as well as lots of restaurants and institutions like Middlebury College, Porter Medical and county schools that buy local.

Jonathan Corcoran, who authored the report, notes that "when you put the pieces together, we have the beginnings of a vertically integrated, community-based food system. I hope citizens will take the time to read the plan and get involved in whatever way they can, whether on the farm, in our schools or when they are buying food. This presents a significant opportunity for strengthening agriculture and our communities in the county. "

The plan can be accessed through the ACORN Web site at www.acornvt.org.

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