Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't miss the Florida Small Farms Conference July 15 - 17!

This great conference is gearing up for the 3rd year and anyone interested in farming should not miss this event.  It is jam-packed with information from the workshops and exhibitors and includes time to network and socialize as well.

The purpose of the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference is to provide farmers with more in-depth educational information, to facilitate networking, dialog, and visioning among members of the Florida small farms community, and to increase awareness of the small farms industry to decision makers, supporting institutions, and the general public.
The conference will provide high quality educational and networking activities geared to small farms. Concurrent educational sessions (presentations, workshops, hands-on demonstration, and discussion groups) will be provided to share results of groundbreaking research and provide educational support for producers to operate sustainable and profitable enterprises.
The sessions will span across the following topics:
  • Alternative Enterprises                                                   
  • Alternative Energy
  • Business and Marketing
  • Horticulture
  • Livestock
  • ExhibitOrganic and Sustainable Farming
  • Policy and Regulations
Additional Conference Highlights Include:
  • Pre-conference Workshops and Tours
  • Featured Florida Farmers
  • Livestock Arena with Live Animal Exhibits
  • Local Foods
  • Large Exhibition Showcasing Products and Technologies
  • Farmer to Farmer Roundtable Discussions

To register go to 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food Entrepreneurs Could Share a Kitchen

Sumter County is home to some of the best cooks, canners and bakers than can be found anywhere.  Our climate allows us to grow almost any fruit, vegetable, dairy, poultry or meat product in abundance.  What is missing in this area is a commercial kitchen that can be used to legally produce food products and sell them.

One of the most common questions asked at our UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension Office is “how can I sell ­­­my” cookies, jams, pickled okra, eggs, goat cheese and much more.  These budding food entrepreneurs are then bombarded with the truth of the kitchen certification process and the necessary food manager certification.  There are label requirements and permits that must be considered as well.

All foods to be sold to the public must be produced in a permitted commercial kitchen with a certified food manager present.  The Florida Food Safety Act outlines the rules for food preparation and can be found in Florida Statutes Chapter 500.  While it may not be cost effective to build a commercial kitchen for one food enterprise, shared kitchen incubators are providing solutions for farmers and food entrepreneurs that are interested in adding value to their crops or products through processing.  Rather than leave cull berries in the field, they can be processed into many products such as jams and jellies.  Prolific cucumbers and squash can be turned into pickles and relishes and sold at the local markets, stores or on the internet. An inspected mobile processing unit could be used to process poultry and meat animals for sale.

More than ever, consumers are very interested in purchasing locally produced products, as well as gourmet and artisan foods.  At the same time, small farmers and entrepreneurs are seeking ways to make a better living using the resources they have available.  This may be a good time to consider developing a small business incubator that focuses on food products.  If interested in learning more about getting started in a food business please contact Susan Kelly at (352) 793-2728 ext. 236.  Please also take the food processing survey that will help determine the interest in participating in shared food processing facilities at   .