July 26, 2006 – A Time for Dreaming

Last week Linda went to Athens, Ohio to tour ACEnet, one of the nation’s most successful incubator kitchens. An incubator kitchen is a place where a person or aspiring company can process food for retail sale, or ramp up a recipe in a batch food environment before building or taking it to a food manufacturer. So, you may be a sweet corn farmer who sells frozen cobettes (corn on the cob broken in half) to a rib restaurant – you could rent the kitchen for a week to legally process all your corn. You may have a great family dressing or salsa recipe you’d like to try to sell – this is the place to produce test batches and do some test marketing.

This is a picture of Bill, the food scientist/chef at ACEnet. He helps people with ideas batch up their recipes, among other things.

An incubator kitchen is one part of the dream for the entrepreneurial farm Linda is planning at the community college. They hope to use the 140 acres adjacent to the farm to rent out small plots – 1/2 to many acres for someone wanting to start an agricultural enterprise. Along with the classes, incubator kitchen, and farm – it could be a great way to recapture lost food dollars, begin a local food economy and provide meaningful employment. Linda has spent her “work” summer researching other entrepreneurial farms in planning the use of the land at MCC.

It is frustrating that this type of community-based agricultural venture does not gain traction. Especially in light of the farm subsidies paid to commodity farmers to produce crops that result in overproduction. The Environmental Working Group has published all the taxpayer money that goes to commodity subsidies. In Marshall County Iowa alone, the data is from 1995-2004 and the largest farmer received $1,302,739 in taxpayer money (or national debt as the case may be). It’s not an isolated case. There were 44 farmers who recieved over $750,000 and 164 farmers who received $250,000 or more. Just the payments from one of those farmers would go a long way to helping many more entrepreneurial farmers create community wealth.