Recently at the Education Center at our Community Farm, preparations have been underway for the development of a new industrial-grade kitchen. For the past three years, Community Farm Manager Chris Link has been guiding the transformation of space once used for dog kennels into an valuable resource. We have created a value-added kitchen with Energy Star appliances, put in a larger well and septic systems, and installed photovoltaic solar panels. Using Madison County’s value-added kitchen as inspiration, we developed a kitchen layout that provides easier accessibility for farmers and a more convenient way to change raw materials into value-added packaged products; the kitchen will have high energy efficiency and lower costs, being financially accessible for community members.
The idea of “value-added” means changing the physical state of an agricultural product to enhance its value through promotion and use. It is the general focus of production, manufacturing, marketing, and service that increases the profit of an agricultural commodity. The term value-added became popular during the 1990s and identifies ways for producers to increase their profit from things they already produce. For example, turning fresh berries into jams or preserves. Benefits of introducing value-added products within your business include increasing market values, expanding your brand’s identity, or creating higher return rates. Adding value to any farm takes time but generally fall under two categories: innovation and coordination. Innovation is the process of improving already existing services or products and integrating research on alternative crops and resources. Horizontal and vertical coordination focuses on bringing together different farm products to either consolidate through various individuals and companies or contracting to be the sole owner of multiple market stages.
By incorporating the kitchen at the SAHC Community Farm and adding a solar powered system provided by the Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development REAP grant, SAHC plans to utilize this space for the farm producers and large events to help subsidize the cost of production. The REAP (Rural Energy for America Program), provides agricultural farmers and small businesses with grants and loans to purchase renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.