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Business Beat

February 15, 2014

Otsego 2000 offers help for local food producers

Local farm and food entrepreneurs interested in developing goods and markets are sought for a survey to help develop business connections and access to commercial kitchens.

Otsego 2000, a nonprofit organization that sponsors the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, has posted a survey online to gauge interest and needs of existing and future agricultural and food producers. Meanwhile, the organization is working on a map and directory to identify commercial kitchens within a 50-mile radius of Cooperstown, Lyn Weir, manager of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market and agricultural programs at Otsego 2000, said Thursday.

“Agricultural and food businesses of all kinds could expand into a variety of value-added food products given access to a 20-C commercial kitchen,” Weir said in a media release. “The lack of such a facility is a barrier to start-ups and business expansion. Establishing how many folks would use such a facility, and what their specific needs might be, is vital to assessing whether this project moves forward with an additional facility in our area or provides support for the already existing facilities in a 50-mile radius.’’

Commercial kitchens monitor food safety for the public, and understanding the layers of licensing requirements is complicated, the release said. Chocolate makers and caterers need a 20-C licensed kitchen, and other instances requiring such a facility are when:

• An orchard makes fruit jam and wants to add hot peppers to the recipe.

• A produce farmer has more in the field than can be sold at harvest and wants to pickle, dry, freeze, can or package produce.

Interest in locally grown food and locally produced food products continues to increase, with demand in New York city is estimated at $1 billion and nowhere near being met, the release said. Commercial kitchens are a critical piece in the supporting infrastructure needed to promote production and market growth locally.

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