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Castleton Crackers

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Randolph, Vermont - April 2, 2009

What a year it's been for Whitney Lamy. She beams, "Every day I'm just sort of pinching myself!"

Last winter, the longtime educator turned her cracker-making hobby into a business, selling 30 bags a week at the Rutland farmer's market. "I was the one up at four in the morning rolling the crackers and packing them," Lamy remembers.

But now she's moving 600 bags a week, and is in more than 100 stores, with someone else doing the kitchen work: Freedom Foods in Randolph.

Cathy Bacon explains, "A lot of the questions [my clients have are] involved with labeling."

Bacon started Freedom Foods after leading the Vermont Specialty Foods Association for years. She now coaches upstart food brands on their ingredients and recipes, and does the cooking and packing so clients can focus on other parts of their business.

Bacon says, "Vermont, years ago, did an incredible job of branding 'Vermont,' and opening up awareness of the great quality of products that are made here." She continues, "But a lot of the onus of maintaining that brand has fallen to the small producers."

With baking and the pressure of investing in equipment off her plate for a per-pack fee, Whitney Lamy can now focus on growing her brand. She says, "No one really sells your product better than you!"

Castleton Crackers updates a 200-year-old recipe. It's a version of hardtack, the flour and water staple that fed soldiers and sailors. Lamy's take adds buttermilk, butter, and other local ingredients, to make crunchy wheat, rye, and maple crackers.

As they were in the olden days, the snacks are hand-cracked. Lamy says, "It snaps, so that's how we get the name cracker!"

That means each one has a different shape and rustic look. Castleton Crackers hopes to add new varieties, expanding with its partner at Freedom Foods.

Together they are strengthening the "Made in Vermont" label. Cathy Bacon smiles, saying, "I'm very proud to be Made in Vermont!"

Freedom Foods makes several dozen products for different labels, including baking mixes, cereals, and cheese spreads, with a rule against ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. It hopes to sign up new producers, to help get a discount in bulk ingredient pricing.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News - Made in Vermont

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