The Value-added Microprocessor Project
The first year of The Value-added Microprocessor Project has allowed farmers to produce safe value-added products that have increased economic returns, strengthened the community-farm-to-table link, and saved valuable natural resources. Over 150 farmers and Cooperative Extension Agents have attended the Homebased Microprocessor Workshop, which is the first step to becoming certified in selling home-produced and processed value-added fruits and vegetables from their farm or farmers market. The summer of 2004 found eight farmers selling a variety of products from pickles to salsa to barbecue sauce. Over 100 recipes have been approved, the second step in becoming certified. Each farmer is proud to be supporting their community and contributing to sustainable agriculture. One has found such success, that she has become a food manufacturer, selling over 10,000 jars to date. More can be read in the spring 2005 issue of Common Ground.
In addition, several trips were made to technical workshops and entrepreneur centers. This information will be invaluable as the University of Kentucky strives to offer food entrepreneurs a one-stop shop for setting up business. New specialty value-added workshops are in the works as well.
The agriculture community from all areas has responded with enthusiasm to the addition of value-added food products being available in many communities. The University of Kentucky looks forward to coming year’s successes.
The objectives of the previous year have been to: use information from the pilot Homebased Microprocessor Workshop to the develop, peer-review and print a Homebased Microprocessor Certification Manual; conduct homebased microprocessor workshops; conduct a follow-up survey of certified homebased microprocessors; attend technical workshops and visit entrepreneur centers; and begin the development of specialty value-added workshops.
The following accomplishments have led to successfully meeting the objectives of The Value-added Microprocessor Project:
The Homebased Microprocessor Certification Manual was developed, peer-reviewed and printed. One up-date has occured.
15 Homebased Microprocessor Workshops have been held in different areas of the state;
166 farmers and Cooperative Extension Agents have been trained, completing the first step in certification;
Over 100 recipes have been reviewed, the second step in certification;
For the summer 2004 season, eight farmers have become certified to sell their value-added products from their farm or community farmers markets. Many more are preparing for certification for 2005.
A survey for these eight farmers revealed all were making money from their venture and could not meet supply and demand. Each plans to expand in 2005.
The project leader attended Postharvest Technology for Horticulture Crops at UC-Davis and Starting a Food Business at Oklahoma State University. These were in conjunction with visits to food entrepreneurial centers. Also attended the International Food Processing Equipment Show in Chicago to gather information for the University’s Food Systems Innovation Center.
The development process for development of a speciality value-added workshop entitled From Kitchen to Market was initiated.
The University of Kentucky is on track and pleased with the accomplishments of The Value-added Microprocessor.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The 166 individuals who completed the Homebased Microprocessor Workshop were trained in HB 391 Farmers Market Legislation, Food Safety and Sanitation, Home Canning, Microbiology of Home Canned Foods and available support systems. The Certification Manual received a big thumbs up from the regional Food and Drug Administration, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services Food Safety Branch, and others. Pre- and post-tests indicate a 65% increase in homecanning and food safety knowledge. Although only eight of the 166 trained microprocessors were certified for the 2004 season, more are in the process for 2005. Of the eight who did sell at various Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved farmers market, none could keep up with demand. All plan to expand for the coming season and are feeling positive about their contributions to their own farm, community and sustainable agriculture.