In cities across the country, local food advocates are working to develop capacity for food entrepreneurs (and farmers) to add value to their locally grown fruits and vegetables. The emerging literature on urban creativity and cultural industries makes it clear that the city is now a site of dynamic economic creativity and experimentation (Florida, 2002; Gertler, 2001; Scott, 2000)
Right here in Columbus, a local group has opened a non-profit food business incubator called the Food Fort. Their mission is to support local food entrepreneurs in the growth of their businesses. They state that job creation and increased access to healthy foods are two of their main goals. (These align with OSU Extension’s mission and work in the local food system arena as well!)
The Food Fort offers licensed commissary space to mobile food vehicle (“food truck”) owner-operators. They also operate a licensed commercial kitchen. Similar ACENet in Athens, OH, they provide one-on-one training and technical assistance to help new food-related businesses grow.
According to their web site, the Food Fort currently holds these certifications:
- Bakery Wholesale License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Allows for production of baked products to be sold to retail locations. We also have relationships with several local markets and grocery stores and would be more than happy to help you get your products into some of these locations.
- Frozen Food Establishment License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Allows for production of frozen foods such as popsicles and frozen (vegetarian) dinners (note: dairy and meat not covered under this license so ice cream and frozen meat production are not permitted at this time).
- Cold Storage Warehouse License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- In our facility, we have a walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer that are available for rental.
- Commercial Cannery License by the Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Risk Level 4 Food Service Operation License by Columbus Public Health
- Under this license, caterers and bakers can prepare food that they are selling directly to the consumer. The retail sales are done under our Columbus Public Health license, while product prep for wholesale is conducted under the Ohio Department of Agriculture license.
- Wholesale Meat and Poultry Production License by Ohio Department of Agriculture (in process – ETA Spring 2014)
So if you are working on expanding opportunities for local food businesses, check out the Food Fort Columbus and get some great ideas on where and how to start.
In addition, there is some new Value Added Producer Grant information available at: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants
There is also more information in our new food pub online: http://localfoods.osu.edu/sites/localfoods/files/imce/Healthy-Food-Systems-Learning-About-Food-4.7.16.pdf
Reviewed by: Julie Fox Ph.D. OSU Extension in the City Program Director, and Jacqueline Kowalski ANR Educator, Summit County.