By Mike Housewright, City Recorder, Town of Unicoi
The concept of the Mountain Harvest Kitchen first came to be when Unicoi leaders saw the need for private citizens to have a place where they could produce their foods in a commercial grade kitchen to enable them to sell their goods on the open market.
Since that time, the kitchen concept has changed and grown. The town has worked to build partnerships with organizations like Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development, AccelNow, the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Extension. These partnerships will effectively establish the kitchen as a food business incubator. In doing so, this enables culinary entrepreneurs to startup with low overhead, access to business advisory services, and better facilitate the birth of new businesses and the creation of jobs in the region.
- Economic Development Agency
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Program Partners:
- AccelNow (Regional Entrepreneur Center)
- Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council
- Agricultural Extension at the University of Tennessee
- Food Safety Instruction
- High Interest Food Programming
- Nutritional Education and Programming
- Food Based Entrepreneurial Accelerator
- Bread and Pastry Bakers
- Food/Candy Product Entrepreneurs
- Mobile Food Cart/Truck Vendors
- Professional Chefs
Upon its completion in the next couple of months, the Mountain Harvest Kitchen in the Town of Unicoi will be a certified commercial kitchen designed and built to support the development and growth local and regional food-related startups.
The facility will be available for rent to individuals and businesses for food processing with 24 hour access, seven (7) days per week. Housed in a 4,000 square foot building, the kitchen will provide two (2) food processing areas with industrial grade equipment, a research and development lab, a receiving area, walk-in freezer and refrigerator, dry storage, and office space.
The facility will be inspected by and hold health and safety certification courses by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, as well as, the Tennessee Department of Health. These certifications will ensure that food prepared in the kitchen meets the necessary requirements to be sold in the marketplace.
The Mountain Harvest Kitchen is designed to foster food business development in Unicoi and throughout the surrounding region by offering support resources and services to entrepreneurs interested in the food product and culinary fields. The kitchen will offer physical space, education, common services, and the networking connections necessary for sustainable business development. Among those services will be entrepreneurial trainings such as CO.STARTERS that will ensure that users will have the knowledge essential for successful business creation.
The Town of Unicoi is presently interviewing for the Mountain Harvest Kitchen director’s position and the facility is expected to be fully operational in early Summer.
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