- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public policy, community services
The project to support value-added production and focus attention on the onerous requirements for small scale entrepreneurs began with first-year activities including mutual support among the dozen participants, the nuts-and-bolts of starting a food business and marketing. The second year coincided with the economic downturn and impacted the project in several ways: financial support evaporated for some participant’s expansion plans and the proposed rental kitchen closed. Despite this, sales of allowable produced-at-home, value-added products at our farmers market increased in volume and diversity. At the project’s farm-to-fork dinner, participants vividly presented barriers to greater production options to our legislative representatives.
The entrepreneurs at our local farmers market are stymied by a state-level barrier that makes it impossible to produce many types of value-added products in their home kitchens. Current regulations in Georgia require costly certified kitchens that make it economically unfeasible to initiate and test jam, jellies, and vegetable products on a small scale. This project proposed to start working towards grassroots change by creating a network of local entrepreneurs who would produce and market their value-added products to area consumers, businesses and caterers. Through a series of workshops that are based on the Kentucky Microprocessor model, the participants would rent space in an existing certified commercial kitchen that had agreed to participate in the project. The culmination of training and product development would include sales at our local farmers markets and a preview party where local, regional and state food safety officials and legislators would be invited to sample the products. We envision this model to be picked up by other communities throughout Georgia, serving as the core constituency for changing state policy to allow for home-based microprocessing. In the bargain, our producers would be able to develop their products, sell them legally, and add to their “bottom lines”. The community’s resources in economic development, marketing, event planning and catering would be tapped to enhance the project’s success and reach.
- Increase economic viability of local sustainable entrepreneurs through assistance in producing value-added products using a local certified kitchen.
Demonstrate the feasibility of safe and economically-beneficial food processing on a small scale by replicating the Kentucky home-based processor curriculum led by local Extension staff.
Establish a working partnership between agricultural entrepreneurs, local economic development agencies, marketing, and food vendor companies in order to produce and bring new products to meet existing consumer demand for locally grown products.
Begin the grassroots campaign to change state legislation to allow limited home-based food processing options.