Kentucky Proud Connection staff report
McKEE, Ky. – The Jackson County Regional Food Center in Annville helps family farmers and entrepreneurs make thousands of pounds of value-added farm products. It currently works with 15 to 20 clients, said Mary Carpenter, who manages the center.
The food center can be rented for $35 per hour by any grower, producer, or business that grows and/or develops food products on a large scale for retail and wholesale markets, according to its website.
"It [business] is starting to pick up a little more in the last couple of months," Carpenter said.
The kitchen equipment includes 40- and 60-gallon steam kettles, a tilt skillet, large canners, a convection oven and gas range, and label and filling machines than allow anyone to process and package a product, according to the website.
Products made by the center include jams, jellies, salsas, barbecue sauces, salad dressings, baked goods, and candies. This week, Carpenter helped a client make something new — powdered beer cheese.
"My goal is to get more Jackson Countians around here to use it," Carpenter said, noting many local residents have gardens in which they grow food. "Why not get a couple of families together, rent it, and can some of those vegetables?"
Carpenter plans to host more canning workshops in an effort to get more local people involved.
The kitchen, which has two to three part-time employees, is owned by Appalachian Alternative Agriculture of Jackson County (3AJC), a nonprofit group. Its goal is to provide a fully-equipped, licensed facility that can eliminate the overhead costs of developing an idea into a product. The food center can help clients develop a product, including the idea and recipe; get the nutritional facts; meet all necessary regulations; and process, package, and label the product, according to the website.
One of the Jackson County Regional Food Center's main clients are Jackson County High School students who learn about value-added agriculture at the certified kitchen. To read about "Jammin' with the Generals," click here.