farm stand

On Farm Food Processing

Processing Food for Sale from Your Connecticut On-farm Residential Kitchen

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Are you a farmer interested in processing jams, jellies, acidified foods (pickles, relishes), or maple syrup from your on-farm residential kitchen? Connecticut regulations allow farmers, using the fruits and vegetables they grow, to manufacture these foods in their home kitchen with the intent to sell them at farmers markets or on-farm stands or retail operations.

The University of Connecticut Extension, in cooperation with the University of Rhode Island, is conducting a two day workshop to help farmers considering starting a small food processing business in their residential kitchen. The course will be held May 14 and 19 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Middlesex County Extension Center, 1066 Saybrook Road, Haddam, Connecticut. Preregistration is required and space is limited.

Session 1, on May 14th will address exploring the on-farm value added food production as a business option. This session will include: what you should know about regulations and on-farm processing; understanding the potential food safety risks in your on-farm processing kitchen; managing a risky food business with risk management planning; and considerations when you want to scale up to produce a larger quantity and/or variety of products. This session is geared to help farmers determine the costs and benefits of starting a home kitchen-based food processing business—to help them make decisions about going forward.

Session 2, on May 19th, will address product, process, and facility food safety controls for the residential farm kitchen. This session will include: sanitation for the residential processing kitchen; canning processes and food safety controls for jams, jellies, acidified foods and maple syrup; and writing a food safety plan. We will also demonstrate how to test sanitizers for concentration and how to use a pH meter.

To register by May 8 or to answer questions you may have about the course, contact Diane Wright Hirsch, Extension Educator at diane.hirsch@uconn.edu or by phone at 203.407.3163.

 

CSA School: By Farmers for Farmers

UConn’s Cooperative Extension System (Jiff Martin, Jude Boucher, Joe Bonelli and Mary Concklin), the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) and CT NOFA sponsored a CSA School on November 28th, at the Middlesex County Extension Office.  A total of 81 people attended the event and 49 (60%) filled out an evaluation form.  Eighty percent of the participants grew vegetable crops and many also grew flowers, small fruit and had greenhouses.  Eight growers, two Extension Educators and one “Typical Customer” made presentations about their CSAs’ at the workshop, while four more farmers led discussion groups on how to get started, get better and deal with regulations. Presentations included a ‘Typical CSA Vegetable Share’, ‘Multi-farmer CSA’, ‘Multi-season CSA’, ‘Partnering with Chefs’, ‘a Meat CSA’, ‘Tips & Tools for CSA Business Management’, ‘Insuring a CSA’, and a farmer panel of first-year CSA growers who shared what to do and not to do when getting started.

Seventy-nine percent of the folks who answered the evaluation rated the program as “excellent” while the rest rated it as “good”.  Participants all received a CSA_School_Booklet_112812 and all rated it either “Excellent” or “Good”.  The full booklet has been posted on the UConn RMA web site at www.ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/.  Of the respondents, 86% said they learned something to change their marketing practices, while 80% said the program will improve their farm profitability.  Almost everyone raved about the locally-grown lunch from River Tavern and some said it was worth the price of admission all by itself.  Four respondents said they would start a CSA next summer while 10 claimed they would add a farm credit-style CSA option to their operation.  Others said they would start an entertaining CSA newsletter, begin office or church deliveries, increase their crop diversity, partner with restaurants, add items to shares, write up shareholder agreements, plan production to meet share requirements, start a swap box, change the amount in each share, and have more personal contact with shareholders.

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Left:  Rick Hermonot, from Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, describes his “Meat CSA.”  Right: Steve Munno, from Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, leads a discussion on how to improve your CSA.