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VIROQUA - The Vernon Economic Development Association has received a $40,000 state grant toward efforts to coordinate local food production.

VEDA Executive Director Sue Noble received the Buy Local Buy Wisconsin grant Tuesday from Rod Nilsestuen, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Nilsestuen attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting for Premier Meats, a processing site between Westby and Viroqua.

VEDA plans to use the $40,000 to develop the Western Wisconsin Local Foods Initiative, which will coordinate a cooperative of producers, processors and institutions in the county. The money will help increase access to markets by establishing local infrastructure for production, processing, marketing and distribution.

"Everybody likes the idea of local food, but getting it into a restaurant, grocery store or a hospital where they need it when they need it in the quantity with quality is a challenge," Nilsestuen said. "You have to have assistance for doing that. What ‘Buy Local' is about is bringing together the local food people to network and work together to get that done."

VEDA's grant was the largest among nine recipients for 2009 chosen statewide.

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