rocket mass heater dvd*
Permies likes farm income and the farmer likes value-added products and commercial kitchen ideas permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies
Register / Login


(the sound is wonky for the first 20 seconds)

daily-ish email

micro heaters

rocket mass heater

wofati

permies » forums » homesteading » farm income
Bookmark "value-added products and commercial kitchen ideas" Watch "value-added products and commercial kitchen ideas" New topic
Author

value-added products and commercial kitchen ideas

Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2236
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  38
Many folks sell "value-added" products made from items raised on their homestead (urban or rural) - jams, jellies, soaps, herbal tinctures or vinegars, pickled veggies, etc. - at markets, fairs, local groceries or co-ops. I think these products are an excellent opportunity for diversifying homestead income and 'right livelihood' type of work.

There is this new Sedgwick, Maine law that exempts home kitchens from from having to pass county, state or federal regulations in order to produce homegrown goods. (I think this means they don't have to have a health department permit for their kitchen, but if I'm wrong, I welcome any corrections.)

Most of us, however, live places where the farmers markets and other places we might sell our goods require that they are produced in a kitchen that has been "approved"--often known as a commercial kitchen.

For example, there is a young couple in my hometown's farmers market who sell their own barbecue sauce. It's yummy stuff. In order to sell it legally, they have to produce it in a commercial kitchen. The closest commercial kitchen is twenty-five miles away, so they trek their ingredients up there, produce their sauce and then trek it all back home again.

I heard from someone that most churches have kitchens that are (or could be) commercial kitchens. I checked with two churches here and while one could be a commercial kitchen, they consider it too much hassle for not enough income, so they have not gone through the final health department approval process. Plus, as non-profits, some churches get concerned about providing kitchen rentals to for-profit ventures.

More farmers markets and community centers are adding commercial kitchens to their facilities--kudos to those that do! Though for many communities, this is an incredibly expensive thing to build and not always the most available or eco option.

I would think school cafeterias, on weekends or in the summer, might be an excellent choice, though I just saw that my local school district requires huge amounts of liability insurance ($2 million) in order to issue a rental use permit for anything on school grounds.

In trying to brainstorm this situation, and find some already approved, but perhaps under-utilized local kitchens, it dawned on me that there might be some restaurants in my area that are only open for lunch and dinner - or maybe only open for dinner - and might be willing to rent their kitchens early in the day. Though I'm sure business owners would also be concerned about the wear-and-tear or possible damage or liability as well.

So many kitchens and not one to use. Which makes me wonder a few things.

Do any of the folks here produce value-added products?
Where do you make them?
If you can't/shouldn't make them at home, where would you like to make them?
What are some other ideas for commercial kitchens?



Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services - www.jocelyncampbell.com
Steven Baxter


Joined: Mar 22, 2011
Posts: 254
There are some kitchens which you can rent time. A lot of at-home caterers do this, so they do not need to have a whole commercial kitchen, but most are in city limits away from most rural areas.
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2236
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  38
oracle wrote:
There are some kitchens which you can rent time. A lot of at-home caterers do this, so they do not need to have a whole commercial kitchen, but most are in city limits away from most rural areas.


Right, the young couple I met who make the barbecue sauce rent time in a commercial kitchen. But that kitchen is 25 miles away and I think there must be kitchens that could be used that are closer than that.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
I started a candy company in 1995 out of my home.  Getting the kitchen licensed was no big deal.  Through the county health department the license fee was $100.  Through the State department of rural resources, the license was $10.  I went through the state.

The process is simple enough, send them the money, they send someone to inspect.  As long as you pass inspection, you get your license on the spot.  The standards are the same as if you were a McDonalds or Olive Garden.  Clean, potable water was the single most critical factor, with acceptable drainage.  Being on city water, that was a breeze-I showed them the water meter.  Next up is refrigeration-had to have a thermometer in all compartments used in my business, they had to be accurate and the reading withing safe parameters.  Light bulbs were covered, no animals loose in the production area, the guy asked several questions concerning food handling.  I was legal in 10 minutes.

The process is different in every state.  Look to your city/county/state health department for specific information.  If your home is not suitable, there are other alternatives.  Consider a portable shed, 50 bucks a month can get you the structure, do some work on it-plumbing/electric/drywall/cabinets, and it should be able to pass the mustard test.  If a guy can get a hot dog stand licensed to operate by the side of the road, the process is not impossible. 

The space needed is minimal for most operations.  Stove/fridge/sink, some countertops, maybe some cabinets and shelves.  It is my intention to convert my garage to serve as a commercial kitchen.  I'll add a bathroom to the back with an entrance outside, do the carpentry myself on the inside.  The building measures 12x24, offering ample room.  I'd like to start canning and cooking classes in there.  If I can teach canning, and have a field of Pick Your Own vegetables, it should be a good pairing.


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2236
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  38
Oh, very good info, Ken! The one church balked at the ideas of thermometers everywhere, but mostly because they just didn't have the staff to handle the rentals. Did you know about the thermometers ahead of time and did you have them in place prior to inspection?

I like your plan for your garage and the classes and u-pick idea. Kudos to you and I imagine it will do well!!
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5857
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
Each State/County has its own codes (and often to us laymen 'silly' requirements).  In LA county (CA), the best refrigerator you can buy at the appliance store will NOT work...it must be a commercial version, which means (besides costing 2X) that its legs must hold it x many inches above the ground...I guess so that the inspector can look for mouse droppings without getting on his hands and knees.

Please, try to get a copy of your local codes before you begin planning, as that can save you many headaches and $$$.

Another point is if you live on a 'border', will your permit allow you to sell across the border?  (ie Kansas City, KS vs Kansas City, MO)

I, for one, would love to see this issue de-mystified, for both producer and consumer.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1385
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
My husband and I were brainstorming this the other day; our state does not allow you to use your home kitchen.

What about a vendors stand on wheels?  At the fair they cook stuff in their vendors stands.  I don't know how much they cost but we could buy a used one or a fixer upper.  When I am not using it to produce food to sell I could tow it to the local farmers market and get some young buff looking girls and guys from the college to sell coffee out of it.  Men will stand in line all day to look at a pretty girl and I know I don't mind being waited on by a handsome young fella.  The coffee doesn't even have to taste good 

These are some retirement ideas we have been throwing around.


1. my projects
Steven Baxter


Joined: Mar 22, 2011
Posts: 254
South Carolina wrote:
My husband and I were brainstorming this the other day; our state does not allow you to use your home kitchen.

What about a vendors stand on wheels?  At the fair they cook stuff in their vendors stands.  I don't know how much they cost but we could buy a used one or a fixer upper.  When I am not using it to produce food to sell I could tow it to the local farmers market and get some young buff looking girls and guys from the college to sell coffee out of it.  Men will stand in line all day to look at a pretty girl and I know I don't mind being waited on by a handsome young fella.  The coffee doesn't even have to taste good 

These are some retirement ideas we have been throwing around.




Ya thats a great idea. Check out this guys cart. very small and easily transportable

lol, i use to get coffee at this one place because I liked to flirt with a cute girl there

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4PsPMWSKNs
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
I've got 20 years in food service, from potscrubber to manager, from greasy spoon diner to bow tie and linen.  Now I work in industrial construction.  Go figure.

I started growing vegetables in my back yard about 10 years ago (already?) as a means of supplementing my stomach during what is referred to as my Dark Period.  Since then the hobby has developed to become that which I wish to do with myself.  

The combination of a licensed production kitchen and a Field of Love seems second nature to me.  I'll have Pick Your Own vegetables, but not all of it will sell.  A blemish here, a weird turn there, too much of this with no takers would leave me with an abundance of product.  Either I can it, process this surplus into soup/sauce/jam, dehydrate it, feed a pig, or add it to the compost heap.  I hate to see food go to waste.  

I've grown a wide variety of plants, at times, in great abundance.  I've canned all sorts of stuff.  Heck, there are carrots and chard still on the shelf from '05, and I've moved.  Twice.  I've dehydrated several items.  Pineapple is the best.  I've even run some stuff through the grain mill to see what I come up with.  Hint-try dehydrated spinach powder in your next batch of homemade fettucini.  There are some things I want more of-golden cherry tomato sauce, and applesauce top the list.  

While it will take time to put things in place (I got the land last year), once I get things producing, I can produce the sales-I have proven this to my satisfaction.  Adding on value added goods is a given.  For this, I need a licensed kitchen.  If I have folks stopping in to pick some fresh produce, without a doubt, someone will have to go.  For this, I need a bathroom available outside as I'm a bachelor with a complete absence of housekeeping skills.  

If I had a bathroom and a kitchen available which was separate from the house, it would be the core of what I would want for bringing in a couple of interns.  All I need after that is bedroom/living space and maybe hook up a washing machine in that bathroom.  This is solved with a shed, some light carpentry, a power cord, and a window air conditioner or woodstove.  I've had Woofers call willing to live in tents.  

For folks out in the field, be they slave driven interns or welcome customers, a place to get out of the Florida sun is more of a safety concern than a luxury.  A couple of tables and chairs, fridge for cold drinks, and at least a window fan can go a long ways towards offering relief.  Installed in a licensed kitchen, these can become workstations, but they readily contribute to a setting for canning and cooking classes.

Income Diversity seems to be a common topic in these forums.  We aint monocrapping, which means there is always something to do, something to harvest, something that needs a sink to wash in, fridge to store it, or a stove to cook it.  Even if I'm not licensed to use the kitchen commercially to produce a retail product, I can still handle my own food.  If I can show people how to cook and can while I work, and pick up a few bucks at the same time, that's something I really need to look at.  

I have a garage to work with, 12x24.  Not huge, but plenty enough for what I need.  If the need is there for more space, I'm pretty sure the funds will be in place.  The bathroom goes on the north side, on a new section of slab I'll have to pour.  Shower will be seperate, as will the washing machine.  I'd like to do solar hot water, but for licensing, it would best be handled with traditional systems.  In my destroyed house in town is a complete bathroom, including a 40 gallon hot water tank that was a year old when the tree fell.    There is also a complete set up cabinets and that awful pink countertop (was there when I bought it), some of which may be suitable for use, at least for storage.  I'm pretty sure Florida limits food contact surfaces to stainless steel and plastic cutting boards.  Not a big issue.    

My appliance list so far is a 4 burner stove with hood, 4 bay sink-full size with returns and sprayer, a standard fridge will be more than I need, a handwash sink, standard size kitchen sink, share the water heater with the service rooms in the back, and gotta have a dishwasher.  Countertop and worktables would be needed for cutting, processing, heaping, and of course, eating and drinking when I'm not involved in commercial endeavors.  I expect I would need some shelving for pots and pans, spoons and jars, and I would need a mop closet of some sort, but that would fit out back with the washing machine.  Even with all this, I have ample space for a central island workstation which could serve as the demonstration table during teaching periods, plus more space for some combination of tables and chairs to fit up to 8 students comfortably.  

Finding the awesome stainless steel equipment is not a problem at all.  With the economy a shambles, restaurants have been closing down for a couple of years.  They are practically giving the stuff away.  The sink I want can be had for about $500, new would be triple that.  Gainesville and Jax are close, and both have restaurant equipment stores, new and used.

I've looked around online for canning classes.  Prices I've found typically range from $25 to $50, and up to $75.  $40 is a common figure.  I have no figures whatsoever upon which to offer an estimate of potential demand for a canning class, but I'm thinking I can find 4 people with nothing better to do on a Saturday night.  Thats a hundred bucks.  Every week, $400 a month would go a long way towards covering my bills.   The population of the county is 60k, but maybe people would drive an hour from Gainesville or Jax?  4 people, 1 class/week, $25/head is a figure I can live with.  More is possible, but it's not practical to dream up numbers.

Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
That post went over the character count, there is a limit of 6500 characters.

I found this handy character counter: http://www.javascriptkit.com/script/script2/charcount.shtml , even has javascript so you can add it into an html file.

PART II
Canning class is a fine start, but the opportunity goes beyond slicing cucumbers and making pickles.  I've made candy before, but chocolate does not travel well in the Florida sun.  It is discussed earlier that there are people out there who could make use of a commercial kitchen to produce their own product, and would pay to rent the space for regular use.  What's the going rate for kitchen rental?

Catering is a possible enterprise.  I've done several weddings.  The food is the easy part.  Finding people who will show up on an infrequent or irregular basis for minimum wage and not be stoned to the bejesus is the problem.    I'll keep that one on the back burner.

About 20 miles west of me is the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park.  Big events, tens of thousands of people, week long concert series.  The place has been going on for decades.  Every year they add on some new feature.  One year it was a bat house which is now home to some 50 thousand bats.  An interesting feature is a wedding chapel.  People rent the chapel and the dining hall.  I have no idea how much.  Being a small world, I could ask my brother's wife, she handles the advertising for the park. 

With a kitchen in place, it would be a small matter down the road to add on another feature which extends the use of what's already been set up.  I dont think I'm going to service 400 people here.  Parking alone would be more space than I have.    Still, there are groups and events which would fit the abilities of a kitchen and an appropriately sized and as yet indeterminate facility.  Maybe the cub scouts want to take a field trip.  It does not take much to throw up a canopy and rent tables/chairs, even spare equipment.  This is a bridge to cross when reached. 

Besides canning class, there is also general cooking class to consider.  Today's entree is Souflee, tomorrow is Salad Night.  The ingredients come off the farm.  Pay the tuition, learn to make the dish, and have a night out with dinner and your best friend. 

Is there space for a retail side?  With a class of 4, having 4 new or used (pre-owned) canners available, plus jars, lids, caps, rings, funnels, lid lifters, stickers, spare parts, and the Blue Book would make good sense, maybe bring in a few bucks.  If nothing else, I've got a field full of stuff to put in those jars.

How about fresh bread every day? 

The practicality of a bathroom/kitchen combination goes beyond income generation.  For years I would have a big spread on Thanksgiving.  Everyone is invited.  If you have no family in town, or cant cook, my place was sure to have a gang around.  It was always a good time.  For the last few years I've not been able to do this.  Now that I have a kitchen, electricity, running water, heat and lights, I'll be starting up this tradition once again. 

Simply put, a licensed kitchen, separated from living quarters becomes a facility.  What you can do with such a facility is entirely dependent on your own dreams and imagination. 

You can take the boy out of the kitchen, but you can't take the kitchen out of the boy.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
About hiring cuties...

I know a guy who opened an ice cream shop.  He sold cones with the ice cream scooped up right in front of you.  He only hired buxom girls, gave them loose t-shirts for a uniform, then built up the floor in the work area by 6 inches.  The Double Dip is still open.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1385
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
oracle - thanks for the video link - that guy is AWESOME!!!

Ken, I will be trying that spinach powder idea.  I grow lots of spinach in winter, never thought of drying it.
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2236
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  38
Ken, you have some thorough plans and diversification for your homestead and kitchen! I'm sure there are permies here that will benefit from all the details you've shared.

And yes, a vendor cart could be a solution and an excellent income diversification model, too.

I think my initial questions misdirected this thread. I was hoping to brainstorm more community commercial kitchen ideas.

Imagine if each (or most) sub/urban homestead builds their own permit-able kitchen. Even if you're installing used equipment, this doesn't seem to be nearly as sustainable as a shared kitchen (assuming close proximity and enough time for shared use).

Plus, upgrading an existing kitchen could make more sense than starting brand new.

Don't get me wrong: if you can install or create your own, more power to ya! Having a processing kitchen close to fields and harvest is ideal.

I just keep thinking there's got to be a better solution than this young couple driving 25 miles to process their sauce when we have all these permit-able kitchens within minutes of their home.

Is renting time in a commercial kitchen just not very appealing?
OR are they not very available?
What can communities do to make more commercial kitchens available - in a permaculture way of stacking functions, using existing structures and resources, etc.?
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1385
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
While it seems like a charitable (meaning good for the community) thing to do, I have to agree that it probably would not be worth the hassle.

As you stated, the owner of the kitchen must take on quite a bit of liability.  Then there is the matter of hygiene; we all have different standards and we all think our own standards are adequate.   

And the profit margin issue – does the owner of the kitchen want/need to make a profit? Or do they want provide the kitchen as a public service?  If they do want/need to make a profit then the person who is producing food, presumably as a form of income, will have to show that additional cost in their product.

Then there is the possibility of a communally owned kitchen.  As has been demonstrated here a democracy in the kitchen would literally be a case of too many chefs in the kitchen.  I think only a dictatorship would work and you either play by those rules or get out.

If the food producer owns the kitchen then the cost of what they produce will go down with each item they sell as they recoup the cost of the kitchen.  If they don’t own the kitchen then they will pay the same cost each time they produce and the profit margin never really increases.

There is a lady in my area who has built a kitchen that is available, at cost, to use.  It is a VERY nice kitchen but not too many people who are serious about making food income use it – it just eats up the profit – and she needs to make a profit to pay her bills and put food on the table.  Most people who use her kitchen are people taking food producing classes or processing food for their own use because it is such a convenient kitchen to work in; in that situation the extra cost is not much of a factor.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
The 2 largest leasehold expenses for a licensed kitchen: rent/mortgage and energy- probably electrical.

When restaurants open up for the day, if all the equipment is turned on at once, there is a surge charge, let me explain.  While gas is a cheap fuel, in a production setting, control of the energy intensity is made considerably easier with electricity.  All too often, a tight labor schedule means the first guy in each day turns everything on.  Gotta have the steam tables, lamps, grills, salamanders, toasters, and heaters up to temp when the doors open.  Some of this stuff has a whole lot of amperage running through.  I've seen a place turn everything on, several hundred to a few thousand amps, all within a few minutes time.  Some, but not all electrical utilities will charge a fee for this sudden surge in electrical use due to the strain on the system-other stores are doing the same thing, and it takes time to add load ability to the grid.  Then the manager goes through the roof when the light bill is $7000 higher than expected.  I've seen this happen firsthand-one of the subtle nuances that you need to be aware of.  The solution is to spread out the load increase over a couple of hours, or add in timers to turn equipment on. 

If a kitchen is rented, the user can generate some unintentional expenses. 

Liability is a considerable issue.  Say one user handles chicken and does not clean the equipment thoroughly.  Warm, moist surfaces can rapidly render a surface toxic.  The next guy comes in to bake pies and ends up poisoning someone.  Medical bills, attorney fees, pain and suffering, and damage claims are a foregone conclusion.  But who do you sue?  The community that owns the license?  The seller of pies?  The guy who made a mess?  For protection, the community would need to have the place cleaned by a professional cleaning company, waivers would have to be signed, and every producer would need to sanitize the place from top to bottom before they begin their own round of production.

Alternately, one guy cleans up with bleach, another guy cleans up with ammonia.  Food hazards come in all forms: biological, chemical, and physical.  The establishment would need a massive listing of regulations for use, indemnification waivers in place, and all you want to do is make 100 units of YumYums.  Want more?  Try Kosher.  Yes, I have waited patiently while a Rabbi blessed every piece of equipment, and have done so on numerous occasions.  Can a government agency owned kitchen for hire restrict or permit religious food preparation?

The business structure demands private ownership of a kitchen for hire, be it a single person, or an incorporated group but even this is not written in stone.  The Church of Latter Day Saints has canning centers which are available for use.  Some allow only members of the church, some will allow anyone.  The best solution is found in meeting the people in your area, and actively seeking common ground-developing and implementing a plan by which a facility can be established and made to operate for the benefit of those involved.  It sounds so easy, but coordinating even a handful of people and getting them all lined up to point in the same direction can be nearly impossible.  It can work, no question, but the equity investment comes in the form of diplomacy and personal relations.  An important factor in the success of such an endeavor is the level of understanding and willingness to compromise of each personality in the group.  Pretty much the same story that has been going on since people started to live together in the first place.

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5857
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  88
An interesting side-note:  Many years ago, most farms had a "summer kitchen" for the primary purpose of keeping heat out of the house in the warmest months of the year...a time when extra hands were hired and needed to be fed.  It is also that time of year when most canning and dehydrating take place.  That was a time when A/C did not exist.  Farm hands were fed in that kitchen, therefor eliminating the need for a dozen strangers in your house.

I did some math, and concluded that if I built a "summer kitchen", if the tax assessor values the improvement at $20,000, my property taxes would rise about $117 per year (which I rounded off to $10 per month).  For the 6 months of the year that it would be used, I would probably save that much in electrical charges by not having my household A/C running full bore 24/7 (or not need to upgrade my A/C unit).  If I were to go that route, I would certainly investigate what the difference in cost would be to make it "certifiable" as a "commercial" kitchen.  Not only could I then produce a value-added product, but it opens up the possibility of renting it out a few days per month to those who needed it.  Looks like it would either a win-win, or a "nothing lost" expense.
Jacob Nielson


Joined: Oct 31, 2011
Posts: 17
Location: Texas - Zone 8
While living in Utah my wife started a small business selling candies, chocolates, and other goodies. It was kinda of a hassle upfront, we had to submit all the recipes, preparation details, we had to list all ingredients and the labeling had very specific wording, fonts and sizes. It took a little work to get through all of that.
After we had all of that approved, we needed: separate space for all supplies, food stored off the ground away from personal food, separate cool storage for items like butter (we used a six pack fridge). Had to meet sanitation requirements.

One qualifier was that we had to produce only food that was "non-hazardous" ie not meats, eggs etc. they had very specific rules on using eggs (really hard to use them under their rules).
Basically we could not make items that are more likely for food borne illness.

The program fell under the Utah Department of Agriculture under "Cottage Food" if I remember right it cost like $50-75 upfront and the renewal was only $25. We did have to have an inspection which was no big deal.

After working through all of that we decided when we set our farm up we would build a "commercial kitchen" which would then open up allot of other options....
 
 
subject: value-added products and commercial kitchen ideas
 
Similar Threads
income from the land
finding a market for diverse forest garden harvests
Value-adding
selling local, small farm products in Sedgwick Maine just got easier
local vs. organic
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books