Food, Glorious Food

By: Donna Ray Berkelhammer. This was posted Friday, October 29th, 2010

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The Piedmont Food & Agricultural Processing Center, a business incubator that will serve 22 counties, broke ground this week in Hillsborough.

The facility, which is projected to open in the spring, will allow farmers and food entrepreneurs to process their food in a commercial kitchen. It will have a wet side (for sauces, jams, jellies, etc.) and a dry side for baking, as well as product, refrigerated and frozen storage. It will have equipment that may be beyond the reach of many food businesses to own individually, including walk-in coolers, freezers, bottle fillers, ovens and meat grinders. The basic hourly rental fee is $25.

The facility also will provide food certification, and will also offer classes on starting food-based businesses.

Food is a big business in North Carolina, and the lack of public processing centers has been a real barrier to small food entrepreneurs. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture offers classes and other resources to support this segment of the economy. The NC State Department of Food (technically, the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Services) offers additional services and supplies.

The $1.2 million facility was funded by N.C. Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Tobacco Trust Fund, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the U.S. Housing & Urban Economic Development Initiative Program, the RAFI-USA Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Program, and the N.C. Department of Agricultural & Consumer Services Specialty Crop Program.

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