This month we focus on three tenants at the Food Enterprise Center (FEC) who have recently been in the limelight at the state level.
Two of these entrepreneurial businesses have been chosen to receive funding from the 2016 Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin (BLBW) Grant, which is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
One of the businesses, B&E’s Trees, makes bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. Co-owners Bree Breckel and Eric Weninger harvest maple syrup from their farm near Newry and bring it to the Viroqua facility at 1201 N. Main Street. They also pick up bourbon barrels from Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst, Wisconsin, and bring them to the FEC. Their maple syrup then ages in the barrels for approximately one year, after which the syrup is bottled using a system they designed and have installed in one of the kitchens at the FEC.
As Bree explains, “At this point, we have a great product that has been met with great enthusiasm from hundreds of people. The next step is getting the word out about what we’re doing. We’re excited and honored to have received this grant!”
B&E’s Trees will use the BLBW funding “to introduce and establish Wisconsin’s only Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup on the market,” said Bree. “We aim to benefit Wisconsin maple syrup producers by providing a unique, premium value-added product that highlights the diverse culinary uses for maple syrup. This will be done by hiring a marketing consultant to develop a marketing plan and materials that communicate our story with the public.”
“It will also help fund the production of these materials and participation at demos and other sales events throughout the state. In addition,” she continued, “we are striving to increase the market for Wisconsin barley and hops through our collaboration with Central Waters Brewing Co. in the production of a new Wisconsin beer aged in maple soaked bourbon barrels.” The brewery is currently aging a new beer in the maple soaked bourbon barrels. For locations where you can buy B&E’s popular maple syrup, go to their website at BandE’sTrees.com.
Fizzeology Foods, producer of fermented products utilizing raw cultured medicinal vegetables and herbs, will also benefit from the 2016 BLBW Grant. According to owner Faith Anacker, Fizzeology’s mission is to raise health awareness and do our part in working toward food security. The grant, she said, will be used “to supplement labor costs as we utilize business consulting to improve our marketing plan and grow our production and sales through 2016. The ultimate goal is to be in a position to add new jobs to be able to process more local vegetables.”
In making fermented products, “We strive to use the finest organic ingredients sourced from our friends in the Driftless region,” she explained.” She purchases vegetables from small local organic farms and stores them in coolers at the FEC until they’re processed and cured in one of the commercial kitchens there. She continues, “Our ferments are packed with the live enzymes and probiotics that your body craves.” Enzymes and probiotics are a natural way of aiding digestion and supporting one’s immune system.
Fizzeology Foods offers these five varieties of fermented vegetables: Kickapoo Kimchi: traditional Korean Super Food with burdock; German: traditional style kraut with caraway seeds and juniper berries; Kickapoo Cortido: Latin style kraut with oregano, cilantro, lime juice and chili; Seasonal Ferment: seasonal taste adventure with wild foods and the freshest local produce available; and Just Local Naked: pure local cabbage and sea salt. For purchase locations of these products, go to their website at fizzeology.com.
Sue Noble, Executive Director of the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA), provides technical assistance to both businesses, including assisting with grant writing. She adds, “Thank you to the BLBW program for supporting our young entrepreneurs and providing critical funding to help their businesses grow.”
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters
Kickapoo Coffee Roasters, another tenant at the FEC, was recognized for its solar project at RENEW Wisconsin’s 5th Annual Energy Policy Summit held Jan. 21 in Madison. Eighty solar panels were installed last summer near the entrance to the local coffee roaster on the east side of the FEC. The panels are providing Kickapoo Coffee with on-site renewable energy.
The project was a collaboration between Kickapoo Coffee, VEDA and Ethos Green Power. Ethos Green Power of Viroqua developed the 25kW solar-powered project for Kickapoo Coffee and won a state Focus on Energy grant for 21 per cent of the cost of the project. Sue Noble was successful in winning a USDA REAP grant, on behalf of Kickapoo Coffee as owners of the solar array, for 25% of the cost. The remainder of the project is being paid for by local investors and a 30 per cent federal tax credit available to Kickapoo Coffee owners Caleb Nicholes and TJ Semanchin.
In announcing RENEW’s recognition of the collaboration, Michael Vickerman, Program and Policy Director of RENEW Wisconsin, pointed out how third party capital from nearby sources was leveraged to finance a growing local business. He congratulated the collaborators for their “success in developing this unique model of project financing to advance solar energy in Viroqua.”
The infrastructure available at the FEC plus the on-site technical assistance, business counseling, and access to resources there, are only a part of what VEDA offers businesses. Besides fostering retention and expansion of existing businesses and encouraging entrepreneurism and the development of new businesses, VEDA helps businesses by providing them with one-to-one consulting. This includes help with business planning, marketing, and grant writing; connecting with resources for financial assistance; and other ways of meeting business needs.
While VEDA receives grants to help with specific projects, the actual day-to-day work of the organization relies on memberships and gifts from donors. VEDA is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, not funded by county or state dollars, and contributions are tax deductible. We thank those who support us through memberships or donations. Your support is vitally important to our mission of creating economic wealth and prosperity while preserving our rural Vernon County lifestyle.
If you’d like to help, please renew your VEDA membership or join for the first time. An individual membership is $50, a business membership is $125, and donations are accepted at any level. Donations can be submitted by downloading the membership form on our website at www.veda-wi.org and sending to VEDA at the Food Enterprise Center, 1201 N. Main St., Suite 6, Viroqua, WI 54665. We look forward to your partnership.
Neidert is a member of the board of the Vernon Economic Development Association in Viroqua. Her column appears monthly in the Sentry Enterprise.