As we were in the planning stages, we learned from one of our board members that the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has a division that will create designs and floor layouts for food facilities at no cost. We have worked with them so far to create the draft of a floor plan, which you can view on this page. This layout already requires updates as we dig deeper into our research and development, but the free design work allows us to show both you and local builders what we are trying to create.
What be will Inside?
Processing line: In the beginning, we will invest in more generalized food processing machines, and some that are only partially automated, calling for skilled human labor in tandem. However, we have planned on one specialized piece of processing equipment. Sweet corn is a crop that many of our growers can grow a lot of, is of great appeal to buyers, and is also highly perishable. It’s a great candidate for our facility, so we budgeted for a special machine that shucks and shells whole sweet corn cobs.
Blast freezing: Similarly, while individual quick freezing (IQF) is a highly desirable method of freezing food, there are other means that can produce a similar product without creating a massive burden of debt right from the start. This mid-level equipment is the smarter move for our cooperative, giving us flexibility to change course if need be while also employing more local people to get the job done.
Cold storage: Our facility will include 2,000 square feet each of refrigerated and frozen storage, for temporary storage of fresh produce and holding finished frozen product, as well as for rent by local growers.
Commercial kitchen: Freezing of many crops, such as sweet corn, requires a blanching stage. This calls for large burners and vents. The planning for a blanching set-up requires many of the pieces of a licensed commercial kitchen. A licensed commercial kitchen is, by itself, an immensely valuable component of a local food system, allowing food business entrepreneurs the chance to expand their production in a food-safe facility without having to invest in a cost-prohibitive space of their own. Therefore, we decided to include a finished kitchen in our plans, to be used by our cooperative when processing and freezing incoming produce, and to be rented by producers and other local food entrepreneurs in off-peak hours.