Contact: Bob Boehm (800) 292-2680, ext. 2023
AgriNotes & News – a publication from Michigan Farm Bureau
LANSING, August 28, 2003 - The U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) recently approved Rural Business Enterprise grants
totaling $567,400 to start value-added innovation centers in Huron
and Oceana counties as well as a $434,500 Renewable Energy and Energy
Efficiency grant for a proposed anaerobic digester in Allegan County.
Two Rural Business Enterprise grants worth
$283,700 each were awarded to Michigan Integrated Food and Farming
Systems (MIFFS) to establish one "incubator kitchen" in
Huron County and a second in Oceana County.
The centers will help entrepreneurs develop new consumer
products from Michigan crops and livestock and provide assistance
on how to manufacture and market the products. Part of the funds
will be used to research what resources each commercial kitchen
should provide to best serve its respective region, according to
the Michigan office of USDA Rural Development.
The Huron County center also received a $40,000 grant
from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), said
MIFFS Executive Director Tom Guthrie. The same MEDC grant is anticipated
for the Oceana County center.
The grants will help fund feasibility studies to determine
the size and scope of each center, said Guthrie. "We hope to
have the feasibility studies done in six months and then be able
to put pots and pans somewhere," he said. Each county has options
for center locations under consideration.
The incubators are part of an overall strategy to
assist value-added product development in Michigan by the Partnership
for Product Agriculture, a broad coalition that includes MIFFS,
Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB), the Michigan Department of Agriculture
and others such as Michigan State University and USDA.
"The partnership's goal is to help farmers improve
their farm income, and the incubator kitchens are a key component
in what we hope will be a network of one-stop shopping for value-added
product development," said Bob Boehm. "We envision the
incubator kitchens to be a place where a farmer who has an idea
for a new kind of salsa from a commodity, for instance, can test
that idea and receive help in actually bringing the product to market."
Transitioning farmers from being producers of
raw commodities to producers of consumer-ready foods is essential
in today's marketplace where American Farm Bureau Federation surveys
reveal that the farm value of each dollar spent on food in the United
States is about 19 cents, which is down significantly from 41 cents
in 1950 and 31 cents as recently as 1980.
"The farther the farmer moves along the food
chain to the end product, the greater the earning potential,"
And that bodes well for Michigan as a whole, said
Guthrie. "The goal is greater economic activity in the food
and agricultural sectors of Michigan," he said.
Guthrie added that the success of the centers ultimately
depends on the people and communities who use them.
"Great things won't happen because MIFFS or the
partnership is the recipient of a grant," he said. "Great
things happen because people use them and make things happen."
Guthrie hopes to see additional incubators opened
around the state in the future.