Are you looking for an opportunity in the local food business? Maybe you are the next Chobani yogurt success. Demand for locally grown food and locally produced food products continues to increase. In New York City alone the demand is estimated at $1B and is nowhere near being met currently. Projects are underway in a number of regions to help farmers and small food business entrepreneurs get their products to market, increase productivity, and create new value-added products. A commercial kitchen facility is clearly one critical piece of the supporting infrastructure required to promote such growth locally. Commercial kitchens perform vital services in the processing and packaging of local food products.
To begin to understand our area’s needs, Otsego 2000, the 501c3 tax exempt non-profit organization which sponsors the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, launched a survey of food and agricultural entrepreneurs within a 50-mile radius. .
Why would farm businesses and other specialty food processors need a commercial kitchen? Commercial kitchens monitor locally produced food safety for the public. Understanding where the line is drawn between the layers of licensing requirements is complicated. Here are a couple of instances when a 20-C licensed kitchen facility is required:
• Farms process livestock at USDA-certified processing facilities; however when a farmer wants to make grandpa’s sausage recipe and package it for resale, a certified 20-C kitchen facility is required.
• If an orchard makes fruit jam and wants to add hot peppers to the recipe, a 20-C commercial kitchen is required.
• If a produce farmer has more in the field than can be sold at harvest time and wants to pickle, dry, freeze, can, or package produce, a 20-C commercial kitchen is required.
• Chocolate makers also need a 20-C licensed kitchen as well as caterers.
Entrepreneurs of all kinds could expand into a variety of value-added products given access to a 20-C commercial kitchen. The lack of such a facility is a barrier to small business growth.
Establishing how many folks would use such a facility and what their specific needs might be is vital to assessing whether this project moves forward with an additional facility in our area or provides support for the existing facilities.
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Under the umbrella of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, Otsego 2000 engages in a range of agricultural programs to support and promote farming in our region. With programs including tours of local farms and collaborative research on bringing a creamery to the area for local milk processing, Otsego 2000 is committed to expanding the profitability and environmental and economic sustainability of our region’s farms.