The Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator Program, a joint effort by NCIC, the Northern Forest Center, White Mountains Community College, Sustainable Forest Futures, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, is helping to connect our region’s agricultural and wood products to urban markets. One aspect of this program is developing a plan for a regional processing facility based on the availability and marketability of food products and the distribution and warehousing of these products. The model for the distribution network is the North Country Farmers Co-op, which is comprised of 20 farms, 2 bakers, and a maple sugar producer in Northern New Hampshire and Northeastern Vermont.
The Co-op has developed an efficient online ordering system and a delivery system to provide locally grown and made meats, breads, maple syrup, produce, and other items to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and schools in the region. “We have determined the economies-of-scale, mileage parameters, and delivery capacity to make this delivery system work,” said the Co-op’s CEO and President Julie Moran.
The Farms and Forest Accelerator Grant will be used to develop a more robust, full-service online ordering system and marketing website. This proven model will be replicated throughout the region through a plan to add more farms and products and reach more customers. In addition, the Co-op received technical assistance from NCIC to cover legal fees and business expenses to help them get incorporated and create their by-laws. “Eventually, we want to see the North Country filled with small, food-related family businesses that are supporting the thriving hospitality industry,” said Moran. “Hospitality businesses can then focus on giving tourists and residents fresh, healthy food at reasonable prices.”