Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Micro-processing Food in Your Home

Entrepreneur – A person who organizes and operates a business venture and assumes much of the associated risk.

As a farmer, or someone who has chosen to produce products for the food industry, it is safe to say that we are all entrepreneurs at heart. We have chosen to take a path through life that fewer and fewer people choose each year. It isn’t easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding life decisions a person can ever make. You know that to be true, because each and every day you feel a sense of accomplishment that comes along with creating something with your own two hands.

However, accomplishment does come with risk. Risk is something we are all very familiar with. As a food producer we must confront and mitigate risk in every area of our operation. That can be nerve racking, and sometimes it can create doubt.

One of the best ways to battle against the negative effects of risk is to diversify. Enter in the home-based processing and micro-processing strategy.

“House Bill 391 and Farmers Market Legislation allow Kentucky farmers who grow and harvest produce to use their home kitchens to process value-added products, which may then be sold at registered farmers markets, certified roadside stands, or the processor’s farm.” (FCS Extension Initiatives, 2015)

The ability to take what you are already producing, and create a value-added product with it, that you can then sell, all in your home kitchen can be a very powerful tool. This can add the needed diversity to your food production operation that will help you reduce the risk you face by focusing only on growing.

Are people actually doing this?

Debbie Clouthier is an Extension Associate here at the University of Kentucky. She works in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. Debbie has done some amazing work in the Home-based Microprocessors (HBM) program. She has seen over 1200 people attend an HBM workshop since the program started in 2003, with nearly half of them attending in the past 3 years. She reports that there are 134 home-based microprocessors currently certified to sell 785 value-added products including pickles, salsa and canned vegetables. In addition, there are 737 home-based Processors registered with the food Safety Branch to sell lower-risk products like jams, jellies, and syrups.

Ok, so a lot of people have signed up. But, you may be asking yourself:  “can becoming certified help me make money?”

Let’s take a look at an Ohio County resident Paula Lucas and her success with becoming a certified home-based microprocessor.

“Becoming a home-based processor enabled me to sell my baked items, and the microprocessor workshop enabled me to can my vegetables and sell them at the farmers market,” she said. “My husband and I purchased the building in 2010 because my work was overtaking my home.”
If adding value to your production process interests you I encourage you to visit the FCS website and get started on the certification process. This is a fantastic opportunity for food producers to ramp up their business and lessen some of the risk associated with growing food.

 Registrations and certifications are available in two categories; Home-based processor and Home-based microprocessor.  In order to sell canned food items at your local farmer’s market, either a registration or certification is required.  In brief, below are the differences between the two categories. 

Home-based processors may produce and sell any of the following lower-risk products:
• Cut fruits and vegetables
• Prepackaged mixed greens
• Dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs
• Jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, maple syrup, and sorghum
• Breads, cakes, pies, and cookies that contain a fruit, vegetable, nut, or herb grown by the processor
No fee is associated with becoming a home-based processor. An application form must be filed with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services, Food Safety Branch.

Once all requirements for certification are completed, home-based micro-processors are permitted to sell higher-risk, shelf-stable high acid or low acid foods, including:
• Pressure canned vegetables
• Pickled fruits and vegetables
• Tomatoes and tomato products
• Salsa
• Barbecue sauce
• Pepper or herb jellies
• Herbal vinegar
• Low- or no-sugar jams and jellies

For more information please visit the FCS website located here: 

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