Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kitchen Incubators

What is a kitchen incubator?
A kitchen incubator is a facility that is equipped with commercial-size types of equipment for food preparation. The fully installed and operational equipment are available for rent by the hour, day or week. These are health department-approved facilities.

How do they work?
The first step is to make an appointment with the staff for a tour and to find out the specifics for using the facility. Ask questions like: what will be required of me to use the kitchen, how much does it cost, and how do I engage the use of the kitchen? They may require you to have a merchant license, food handling license, insurance and other training. After meeting the requirements, make a reservation to use the kitchen incubator for a block of time.

Why is a kitchen incubator important to beginning and small farmers?
Kitchen incubators allow farmers with limited capital to explore the possibility of adding value to the fruit, vegetables, herbs or meat they produce. They can do this without having to invest a huge sum of cash in a kitchen incubator. An example would be a farmer with a short harvest season for cilantro. This person might decide greater profit could be had in the form of salsa or a cilantro pesto. After developing a recipe in their home kitchen they could rent the kitchen and produce health department approved batches to test the market. The second step would be to begin manufacturing the product with the most positive response using the kitchen incubator.

Where can a kitchen incubator be found?
Many farmers do not know that the Kansas City region now has an ‘incubator kitchen’ located at the Independence Regional Ennovation Center, located in what used to be Independence Regional Hospital. It has a long list of kitchen equipment, such as 40-quart mixers, restaurant ranges, ovens, fryers, and even a smoker. There is also cold/dry storage, office space and conference rooms for rent. One can also conduct training workshops and provide business planning help in conjunction with Missouri Small Business Development & Technology Center. There are many other services offered as well. Contact information is 201 N. Forest Avenue, Independence, Missouri or call (816) 463-3532.

The City Market Farmers’ Market in Kansas City will be installing a kitchen incubator called the Farm to Table Kitchen Currently the concept is in developmental stages and should be available sometime in 2011. It is expected to be smaller in scale and available by the hour to individuals, vendors, and organizations. Contact Paige Powers for more information at (816) 842-1271 or by email.

Kitchen Resources and Further Reading
Independence Regional Ennovation Center (Supports entrepreneurs)
201 N. Forest Avenue, Independence, MO 64050, USA
Jenni Mann, (816) 463-3532

The Culinary Incubator
Online resource and links for the entrepreneur and a map

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC)
Has information and links to kitchen incubators
1111 NSRIC, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-3310
(866) 277-5567

(By Jim Pierce, Farm Outreach Worker with Lincoln University's Innovative Small Farm Outreach Program)

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