Sunday, October 31, 2010

'Kitchen incubators' make the New York Times food issue

Before it gets too far along, try to find a hard copy of the Food Issue of the NY Times, 10/10/10. The title of the magazine section was 'Eating Together. How the food revolution – from farm to table – is really a story about seeding and savoring communities.'

Most people assume they know enough about ‘incubator kitchens’. They are typically seen as facilities that low-income people can use to create food businesses without having to invest funds they don’t have.

But the story of shared use kitchens is certainly not stopping there.

I’ve just watched our Innovation Kitchen seed and grow valuable, loving and profitable communities before my eyes. I watched this beautiful facility create a ‘bloom’ of great jobs for people who have significant employment needs that deserve our support.

Within this NY Times food issue was an article by Rob Walker titled, “Shared Tastes. The ‘kitchen incubator’ and how it really works.” The piece is about the most common ways people are deploying these incubator kitchen facilities to give low-income entrepreneurs access to commercial kitchens and technical support so they can grow new businesses. This is truly great, world-changing work. It’s wonderful to have a bright light shined on this work.

But there are other models emerging, like our Innovation Kitchen. I think our ‘artisan food career’ experiment at the Innovation Kitchen is another new way to think about the subject of utilizing shared use kitchens for creating jobs and economic development.

What if we invite food entrepreneurs of ALL income ranges to participate in food entrepreneurship? Why limit it to entrepreneurship programs for low-income people? The Innovation Kitchen is working on a model that creates a platform for all food entrepreneurs to live anywhere they want and have their recipes prepared by an excellent, fully certified food processing staff in a world class, state-inspected commercial kitchen. This is our ‘artisan food career’ program for aspiring food entrepreneurs nationwide.

At the same time, our Innovation Kitchen model also creates important and much-needed jobs that support adults with disabilities. It is indeed ‘seeding and savoring communities’ as the NY Times says, and represents a valuable addition to this discussion of how to deploy shared use kitchens.

At the Innovation Kitchen, my friends with disabilities are helping package and label and ship a wide variety of foods processed for local farms, food lovers and food entrepreneurs nationwide.

And it’s not just jobs for my friends with disabilities.

In addition, our Innovation Kitchen is focused on helping existing food businesses in our region grow their own enterprises to the next level. This model nurtures our existing economy, gives our existing food entrepreneurs the opportunity to create jobs in their businesses while making their own businesses more stable and profitable.

We just added up the local produce that was processed through the Innovation Kitchen in the last 3 months and it was over 25,000 pounds. In 3 months! This was accomplished while Annette and her great staff were just starting up the facility, plus catching up with their own loss of 3 months of production during their move to the new facility. The Innovation Kitchen processed over 25,000 pounds of LOCAL produce from LOCAL farms, in 3 months to rave reviews. Plus the work supported trucking jobs, plus jobs in labeling and packaging and marketing.

This experiment is making good jobs across a wide spectrum of the food chain (pun intended).

People from anywhere the country can start their own enterprises utilizing the Innovation Kitchen as their safe, legal, commercial food preparation ‘back office’. People can create new businesses from wherever they live while creating jobs for adults with disabilities in Wisconsin. This is the basis for our 'artisan food career' program.

Ours is a different plank in the ‘incubator kitchen’ platform. My friends at the Innovation Kitchen look forward to sharing the idea and their facility in service of this experiment.

I hope to be as transparent as I can in reporting those results here.

Let’s dig in!

The Innovation Kitchen

Our 'artisan food career' program

New York Times. Shared Tastes. The 'kitchen incubator' and how it really works. By Rob Walker. (great date!) 10/10/10

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Innovation Kitchen Partners at the Dane County Farmer's Market

Several of our Innovation Kitchen Preparation Partners are marketing through the wonderful Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, WI.

During the Wisconsin Public Radio interview with Larry Meiller this week I got to highlight several success stories of local farm entrepreneurs having their recipes prepared for them at the Innovation Kitchen.

Don’s Produce, from the Arena, Wisconsin area, is in the beautiful northeast corner of Iowa County. The Innovation Kitchen has made several delicious products for Don and Mary. I got a shot of their wonderful Pure Tomato Juice at the Dane County Fair this weekend. This is a great juice recipe prepared at the Innovation Kitchen.

Another Partner marketing at the Dane County market is Bingham’s Horticultural Products, from the Mineral Point area, in the south central part of Iowa County. Bingham’s has a fabulous Fresh Vegetable Salsa recipe prepared at the Innovation Kitchen.

Our Preparation Partner program for processing recipes for local food and farm entrepreneurs is underway. I’m checking frequently to make sure the expectations on both sides are met. Every day we look for ways to make this valuable opportunity even better.

Through the Innovation Kitchen, jobs are being strengthened and created. More and more people are getting access to local foods year round. Good work is being created and nurtured in our own communities. Food entrepreneurs are investing in local agriculture and local jobs. Our local farms are getting access to valuable new year-round markets.

Nationwide, as more and more lovers of good food and entrepreneurship discover this opportunity, it's easy to see how this valuable experiment can grow.

Thanks to all our Innovation Kitchen Partners!

Our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Dane County Farmer's Market, the largest producer-only farmer's market in the United States.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Link to WPR radio interview with Larry Meiller

A great visit with Wisconsin Public Radio today. Thanks to host Larry Meiller and producer Jim Packard. Link to online audio below.

Got to visit with Christine Lindner, our wonderful ag ambassador Alice in Dairyland at the Madison Food and Wine Show this weekend. Christine was at our Innovation Kitchen Grand Opening and has been cheering us on ever since. Thank you Christine!

Many thanks to Daughter A for the wonderful new layout for the blog. It's a great present. Thanks A!

Show archive for the Larry Meiller show. Search for October 27, 2010 or my last name.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

25,000 pounds of local foods processed at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in 3 months!

I'm fortunate to be a guest of Larry Meiller on his wonderful Wisconsin Public Radio show tomorrow, Oct. 27th from 11:45 AM to 12:30 PM.

We'll be discussing the work of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and the great local foods work that is flourishing in Wisconsin.

Life has been rushing by as new opportunities emerge at the kitchen. Today Annette and I went through the list of foods she and her team have processed since we opened.

They wouldn't be surprised but I was. In 3 months of kitchen operations, they have processed more than 25,000 pounds of local foods. Amazing! These are local foods that in the past had either not been purchased or that came off the back of a truck from thousands of miles away.

This is the list of LOCAL produce, purchased from LOCAL farms that has been processed, in a safe, secure, way in a state-inspected commercial kitchen for our stakeholders - local farms, local food companies, local food entrepreneurs....

Rhubarb (my favorite - I put this first)
Sweet potatoes

This model can work all over the world. We need to run some more experiments (or as our food preparation team would say 'you said we would do WHAT?!!') With some more of this work under our belt, we can offer this piece of the local food puzzle to others.

I'm very excited by this prospect.

Congratulations to Annette and her team at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen on their first 25,000 pounds of local foods processing!

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Wisconsin Public Radio's Larry Meiller program

Iowa County (Wisconsin) economic development

Friday, October 22, 2010

Selling the artisan food career package

Very interesting opening night at the Madison Food and Wine Show. Through our past businesses I'm used to industrial and commercial trade shows. I thought those were busy and exciting. This is a consumer show with a lot more traffic. I'm told the Saturday and Sunday shows are much busier.

My daughters are running our booth masterfully. It was a sheer joy to work with them. I also had the pleasure of being able to introduce them to good friends in my food and economic development work.

I am actively selling our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen's artisan food career package for the first time. This will work. We'll do this for 100 people (partners) at this price then reassess. I'm very encouraged.

If you are near Madison this weekend, this is a great show. Come visit!

2010 Madison Food and Wine Show

Thank you to Madison Magazine for the photo

Friday, October 15, 2010

DC Central Kitchen / Robert Egger

I was a guest this week at a great Annual Meeting and celebration of our Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). I've been a huge fan of WWBIC for a long while. My friend Phyllis from Madison Gas and Electric invited me to attend, and I was thrilled with this opportunity.

I'd wanted to hear the keynote speaker, Robert Egger, do a presentation since I learned about his work several years ago. Robert is the founder of the DC Central Kitchen. His contributions to life are many. Reading about the evolution of the DC Central Kitchen as a laboratory for creating good, sustainable work is truly inspiring.

I not only got a chance to hear Robert's presentation, 'One Voice For CHANGE' but had the great opportunity to meet with Robert for a wonderful conversation before things got underway.

Robert was very supportive of the models we're experimenting with. I'm just reading Robert's book 'Begging For Change: The dollars and sense of making nonprofits responsive, efficient and rewarding for all.'

It was a great honor to have Robert give a shout-out to our work at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen during his presentation. Humbling stuff.

Here is some wonderful text from Robert's book 'Begging For Change':


No matter what type of organization you lead, whether it's nonprofit, for-profit, or governmental, the results should be the same. The more purpose you create, the more profit you'll generate; the more profit you generate, the more purpose you create. Companies and organizations that strive for social change can show us the possibilities of running a businesslike nonprofit and a nonprofitlike business. And the marriage of these two ideas is our future."

Amen. Thanks for a great visit Robert!

Robert Egger's book, 'Begging For Change. The dollars and sense of making nonprofits responsive, efficient and rewarding for all.' Opens new window at Amazon.

DC Central Kitchen

Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corp.

Madison Gas & Electric, MG&E. MG&E contributes (thanks!) to the nonprofit / social profit organization I help run, the ICAEDC

Photo copyright DC Central Kitchen.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Artisan food career web site and public launch

With the help of many people, we are offering our one-time, fixed-price package of training and mentorship in artisan food entrepreneurship through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

For those just joining the story, the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is a new, 10,000 square foot food preparation facility in beautiful Iowa County, WI. The Innovation Kitchen is a shared use facility, which means the staff can prepare foods for food entrepreneurs for sale nationwide. With our great agricultural setting we have access to a wide range of wonderful, sustainably raised foods. The kitchen is also available on a rental basis for regional food entrepreneurs who want to process their own recipes.

Web site for artisan food career program. This is in roughest draft but it is wired in. Off we go...

The Artisan Food Career program.

3D Debut. Madison Food and Wine Show. We’ll be debuting the artisan food career package at the Madison (WI) Food and Wine Show October 22, 23, and 24. To lure the unsuspecting we will be sampling the amazing line of Farmhouse Recipes’ jalapeno jams over cream cheese and crackers (of course available for private label Christmas gifts with your family/business name and message…).

At this great venue, we’ll be available to introduce the artisan food career idea and answer questions about launching one through the Innovation Kitchen.

WI Public Radio Oct 27. The Larry Meiller show produced by Jim Packard: 11:45 AM – 12:30 PM. Just got an invitation to be a guest on Larry’s show on Wed., Oct. 27. Can’t wait to introduce our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen and this artisan food career opportunity in Iowa County to a wider multi-state audience. Larry’s show makes a great contribution to Wisconsin and far beyond.

This should be a great month for talking about local foods and regional food systems as economic development tools for individuals and communities.

I so hope we can represent this opportunity accurately with all the possibilities and responsibilities understood by all involved. It will be an iterative process with all these checklists getting better as time goes on.

If you know anyone with an interest in an artisan food career, please send them our link:

Our Artisan Food Career program.

Thanks and eat well!

The Madison Food and Wine show. Oct. 22-24, 2010. Friday 5-9 PM. Saturday 12-7 PM. Sunday 12-4 PM.

We're joining the show thanks to the good efforts of Something Special from Wisconsin. Thanks SSfW !

Thursday, October 07, 2010

World Dairy Expo 2010

Yikes, what a great economic development juggernaut. The World Dairy Expo wrapped up its most recent show this week in our regional ag capitol and my home town, Madison, WI.

The World Dairy Expo is the international meeting place for the dairy industry. Expo offers the most elite combination of dairy cattle and exhibits in the world.

More than 65,000 producers and industry enthusiasts from 90 countries attended the 44th annual event. Thank you everyone for your great work in dairy agriculture and your support of this great venue.

This year’s vendors were outstanding. I got to visit with my friend, 2008 Organic Farmer of the Year Gary Zimmer of Otter Creek Farm in Iowa County, WI, who also operates Midwest Bio Ag, an international powerhouse in a biologically-based agricultural sales and consulting company.

Thanks for a wonderful show and congratulations to all the great producers, vendors and the more than 65,000 ag supporters who made this year’s World Dairy Expo a great success.

World Dairy Expo

Otter Creek Organic Farm, Iowa County, WI

Friday, October 01, 2010

Janet the pioneer! Our first ‘artisan food career’ entrepreneur!

Our first artisan foods entrepreneur has set sail.

Janet will become the first person to utilize our ‘Artisan Food Career’ package to launch a new food business through the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Janet retired after a long, successful career as a teacher. Now Janet is launching her encore career.

I could not be more impressed with Janet’s enthusiasm. More importantly, Janet is (patiently!) helping us test our intake systems for new entrepreneurs at the Innovation Kitchen. Thank you, Janet!

And we’re still friends.

The Innovation Kitchen, and our “Artisan Foods Career’ package is emerging as a really unique and valuable opportunity for food entrepreneurs. This wonderful place can be your legal commercial kitchen for running a food business from wherever you live that can ship world wide.

And the Innovation Kitchen is nestled in spectacular Iowa County Wisconsin. The kitchen is located in historic, artistic Mineral Point. Surrounded by amazing farms and big demand from regional cities. Iowa County is in the Madison region of beautiful southern Wisconsin. When you visit your processing plant it’s a business trip. Top that.

The Innovation Kitchen is a food entrepreneur’s dream. Well, perhaps it will be a little more dream-like after Janet graciously helps us test the system.

So, Janet has become our first artisan foods career entrepreneur.

Thank you, Janet the pioneer!

This is all being made possible by the Hodan Center. The person making all the food goodness happen is Annette Pierce, Food Service Director for the Hodan Center and Master of the Universe.

Photo is looking through the amazing plant kaleidoscope ("observer of beautiful forms.") at our wonderful Olbrich Gardens in Madison, WI