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Processing and Logistics

During the USDA Farm to School grant period, it became clear that due to staffing shortages, most schools require produce to be minimally processed. In other words, given the choice between buying a whole local cucumber or a sliced, non-local cucumber, the sliced product is always going to win. That’s a big barrier, as food safety regulations require produce to be processed in a certified commercial kitchen, an asset that many small local farms do not have access to. To solve this problem, our team wrote a USDA Block Grant that will in essence create a “mobile produce processing center” that will allow Seasonal Harvest to deliver produce and process it on-site in the already certified school kitchens.

Benefits of this model include its flexibility and the minimal investment required.  Our community hosts a number of certified kitchens but these kitchens lack the staff and equipment necessary to process produce.  On the flip side,  through the food hub, we have a number of individuals with the knowledge and training to process vegetables but lack the kitchen and the equipment.   This project marries these two existing resources to provide a creative solution that could be replicated across the state.  Further, because our nearest local processing facility is limited to organic produce only, the MPM is more inclusive of a wide range of growers.  Finally, the low-cost/high-impact nature of this project stands to address a huge barrier faced by small growers seeking to gain institutional market share:  the cost of building a dedicated processing facility is bigger than the initial market return.  Our model allows for farms and schools to grow demand together with limited risk to the producers and is already gaining interest from similar communities across the state.

This video tells the story of the Wello Farm to School Task Force's Bulk Processing Day in 2016. 

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