“We see the institutional market as an enormous, largely untapped market for small, local specialty food companies and farms. FINE's series on local food processing provides a great roadmap for producers, growers, buyers, and anyone looking to build an equitable, resilient regional food economy,” said Jen Faigle, the executive director of CommonWealth Kitchen.
These publications were generated as part of FINE's New England Food Processors’ Community of Practice, a recent two-year program that provided a forum for processors of local food to share information, visit each other’s facilities, and develop collaborative solutions to common problems. The white papers complement seven case studies that Brooks also produced on the participating processors as well as a video by Smooth Feather Productions that demonstrates processing facilities in action.
“FINE's in-depth analysis provides an outline for producers and processors who wish to reach the institutional marketplace and brings the whole industry to a place of awareness about what it takes to make a positive change for your local economy and working landscapes,” said Sarah Waring, the executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, which runs the Vermont Food Venture Center.
This New England Food Processors’ Community of Practice has helped representatives from seven** food processing facilities become better equipped to meet and overcome their challenges, and share what they are learning with other processors. The major goals of the group were to help existing processing facilities become more efficient at processing local produce and meat for institutions and share best practices with new facilities.
Participants learned valuable information about topics such as processing equipment and plant design; food safety; culinary entrepreneur incubation; and workforce development. FINE has synthesized this knowledge and incorporated the results of additional research in this four-part series of white papers:
- The Equipment Question
- Food Safety Regulation: An Introduction for Entrepreneurs
- The Culinary Incubator Business Model
- Workforce Development: A Challenging Opportunity
"At the Western Mass Food Processing Center, we’re using this suite of white papers to gain valuable information and lessons learned so we can progress faster," said John Waite, the executive director of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. "Many people contact us for advice about starting commercial kitchens, which often improve the availability of local food to institutions, and we refer them to these resources."
"The majority of institutional food buyers we have surveyed, and who we meet with across the region, tell us they plan to buy more local food, and that they want agricultural products processed before delivery," said Peter Allison, FINE’s network director. "However, to meet this demand, buyers, investors, and policymakers need to understand the opportunities and barriers faced by local food processors and work together to create sustainable market-based strategies.”
Providing institutions with easy and affordable access to lightly processed fruit, vegetables, meat and other locally grown food is a crucial step in moving toward our region’s goal of producing at least 50% of our food by 2060, as outlined by the New England Food Vision.
To download complimentary copies of these four white papers, visit: www.farmtoinstitution.org/processors
**A stark reminder of the challenges these facilities face is the fact that one of the participating entities closed their operation after the completion of the project. However, various entities are working to help repurpose the facility and equipment.
About Farm to Institution New England
Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is a six-state network of nonprofit, public and private entities working together to transform our food system by increasing the amount of good, local food served in our region’s schools, hospitals, colleges and other institutions. FINE’s mission is to mobilize the power of New England institutions to transform our food system. The FINE network consists of non-profit organizations, government agencies, institutions, foundations, farms, food distributors, food processors, food service operators, and others. For more information, visit www.farmtoinstitution.org.