The Recorder – USDA Grant to Fuel Food Business Incubator Program

Posted: 11/14/2022 9:05:24 PM

GREENFIELD – With a grant of nearly half a million dollars in hand, the Franklin County Community Development Corp. (FCCDC) is launching a food business incubator program to foster the growth of the local food system.

With the county’s community development agency being the only agency in Massachusetts to receive money under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s local food promotion program this year, CDC Executive Director John Waite , said the food business incubator’s goal is to “match food businesses with wholesale buyers.

“The main focus of this grant is existing food businesses…we call it an incubator because they’re small now and we want to help them grow,” Waite said in an interview. “We want to help them grow by increasing their volume, their quantity…to move from a farmers market to a wholesale buyer.”

The program, through a partnership with the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, will provide business tools, technical assistance and other resources to entrepreneurs who want to take the next step with their business. While the work this grant will bring to the CDC isn’t new to them — Waite noted that they’ve provided this kind of assistance “since we started our food processing center” — it will now be “more formalized.” with workshops and one- at-a-time with specialists.

CDC Food Entrepreneurship Program Manager Kate Minifie said in a statement that the incubator will also be a cooperative experience for business owners, where they can tackle similar challenges together.

“They will learn from each other, in addition to the education they will receive from experts in sales, marketing, financial management, food safety and more,” Minifie said. “We are excited to guide them through this process.”

Part of the three-year grant will be used to hire a financial specialist who can help growing businesses better manage their finances, which Waite says is one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. growing.

“We want to be the place people come to if they want to start or grow your business,” Waite said, adding that the CDC’s variety of services, including its loan program, can help businesses grow in Franklin County. “We have everything they need.”

Beyond the financial challenges, Waite explained that stepping into the wholesale market brings a whole new world of federal regulations that must be followed.

Additionally, the CDC will host pitch competitions at the Greenspace CoWork in Greenfield, similar to Greenfield Community College’s Take the Floor pitch competitions. The first, Waite said, is expected to take place in January or February.

“People think of Greenfield and Franklin County as a happening place for entrepreneurs,” Waite said. “Food is something everyone needs, so it attracts people.”

For those interested in learning more about the grant or the CDC as a whole, people are invited to attend the agency’s 43rd Annual Meeting at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Nov. 16 from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and is the first time since 2019 that the meeting will be held in person. For more information, visit fccdc.org.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

Ryan H. Bowman