Do we still Manufacture Food in the NEK? What’s the Scoop?

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Posted: March 2, 2016

Are We Making Food Here?  Have we created Jobs in Food Production?

Taylar Foster shares the data behind our Food Manufacturing in the NEK….

A key piece of the food system is turning our raw products, like wheat, milk, or fresh produce, into “value-added products”, bread, cheese, or ketchup. Across Vermont, this type of value-added food manufacturing increased 58% from 2004 to 2013, at a time when all other value-added manufacturing actually declined. The share of food manufacturing increased, too, from 10% to 25% of all value-added manufacturing (e.g. furniture, equipment, electronics, etc.).

The people power it takes to make this part of our food system is also increasing. Statewide, employment in Vermont’s non-farm food system increased 10% right after the 2009 recession. During the same time, Vermont’s total employment increased 3%. The growth of jobs in food-related retail, manufacturing, farm inputs, and distribution added over 5,300 jobs from 2002 – 2014, a clear reflection of the importance this type of economy plays in the state.

As impressive as these numbers are, the Northeast Kingdom is no small bag of cut, seasoned, and frozen potatoes. The 2011 NEK Food System Plan established a target to double the percent of farms producing and selling value-added commodities by 2017. The percent of farms in the Northeast Kingdom producing and selling value-added commodities went from 7% in 2007 to 13% in 2012 (the most recent data available). This is a greater increase than across the state.

Even more exciting is the growth in number of jobs in food manufacturing in the Northeast Kingdom since 2001. Then, there were 132 of these jobs. By 2006, there were 211. In 2011, it was 264 jobs. And by 2014, that number was 299 – by now, we must have more than 300 food manufacturing jobs! From 2001 to 2014, this is an increase of 127%. No small bag of potatoes, indeed!

The goal in the 2011 NEK Food System Plan was to see these jobs double between 2010 and 2020. We’re halfway in and we’re halfway there.

  • Can we, as a region, see another 250 jobs in the food manufacturing sector in the next 5 years?

  • Can we double that number in the next decade?

  • How do we do it?

Join us at the NEK Food System Plan Summit on March 26 at Sterling College to set strategies to meet our food system goals! We need your ideas, your voice, and your presence to get there. Free registration is now available at www.nvda.net/agriculture.php.

Questions about the NEK Food System Plan or the Summit? Contact Taylar at nekfoodsystemplan@gmail.com. See you on March 26!

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