Cottage industry expo for local food entrepreneurs
Have you ever dreamed of selling your own cheese or marketing your grandmother’s jam recipe? Budding entrepreneurs are invited to the first annual Tampa Bay Cottage Industry Expo to hear experts from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and industry professionals present on topics such as food safety, production and marketing.
The expo is set for July 30 at Wiregrass Ranch High School, 2909 Mansfield Boulevard, Wesley Chapel, Florida, and will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The goal of the event is to help people tackle the challenges that come with starting a cottage food business, said Whitney Elmore, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County director. “We want to help people get into the industry while avoiding some of the big mistakes that might be a hindrance to their success,” she said.
Elmore, along with Mary Campbell, UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County director, and Stephen Gran, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County director, co-organized the event.
The Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services passed a law in 2011 defining a cottage food operation as a business where food products are packaged in a home and sold directly to the consumer. Under the law, only certain foods, such as jam or dried herbs, can be sold as cottage foods.
However, the expo is open to anyone interested in small-scale, local food production where a commodity is processed in a way that adds value to the final product, said Elmore. For example, jam and cheese are “value added” products because value has been added to the raw ingredients — berries and milk — through processing.
UF/IFAS Extension directors saw a need for the expo after Tampa Bay residents began coming to their local UF/IFAS Extension offices seeking advice on local food production. “Many people don’t realize that there are a lot of regulations when it comes to the food industry,” Elmore said. “We have folks who want to start an agritourism business but don’t know that there are regulations, and we have others starting to make jams and jellies who aren’t aware of how to can safely.”
Food safety will be a big theme of the day, which will kick off with a keynote address from Soo Ahn, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition who specializes in food safety and entrepreneurship.
Developing a food safety program should be the number one consideration when starting a food business, said Scott McClure, a research and training specialist with the FDACS division of fruit and vegetables.
“Many buyers will demand a food safety program before they do business with someone, so having one in place is important regardless of how big or small your operation is,” said McClure, who will give a presentation on state fruit and vegetable regulations.
While a successful cottage industry requires more than just creating and selling a great product, many are drawn to the venture. The fact that cottage industry products are locally made is a unique “added value” people are willing to pay for, Elmore said.
“I see the cottage industries across the Tampa Bay area having a tremendous economic impact,” she said. The proliferation of craft breweries in the region is an example of how a cottage industry can really take off and impact a whole community, she added.
For event times and registration, go to http://bit.ly/1ObY1Fb
By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Mary Campbell, 727-582-2101, email@example.com
Whitney Elmore, 352-518-0156, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Gran, 813-744-5519 ext. 54113, email@example.com
Scott McClure, 863-578-1942, firstname.lastname@example.org
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones