Specialty crop processors looking to 'scale up' have new resource

Iowa State University Extension
Ag News

AMES, Iowa – Food businesses interested in expanding the processing and retail side of their operation have a new resource published by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The “Scaling Up Specialty Crop Processing Toolkit” provides an overview and case study of the different criteria for food businesses interested in processing specialty crops through small scale value-added processing – such as product development, commercial kitchens, increasing sales and more.

The publication was formed by a diverse group of extension experts, including community economic development, food safety, business and food systems, who studied 15 businesses and organizations in Iowa, with a focus on four key areas: food safety, business development, layout and logistics, and vision and goal-setting.

“What I really appreciate about this toolkit is that it goes through these four chapters in a really succinct way, so that no matter what business you are in or if you are thinking about food business, it really takes you into the keys for success,” said Lisa Bates, extension educator with the Small Business Development Center at Iowa State.

In addition to English, the publication is available in Spanish and also Swahili. It includes flow charts and checklists to help food businesses determine what they are already doing, and what needs to be done to scale up to their goals.

“This publication and toolkit serves as a basic primer for things to consider, if you are interested in scaling up into small-scale processing,” said Courtney Long, program manager for farm, food and enterprise development with ISU Extension and Outreach. “I am especially excited because we were able to translate it into different languages. I am thankful that extension provided funds to support translations, so that we can support diverse populations that are interested in being part of value-added agriculture.”

The publication is being released at a time when local food businesses and small-scale processors are seeing increased demand – partly due to COVID-19. Topics like licensing, retail and processing design, employee health and safety precautions, and standard operating procedures are all covered.

The information was compiled through site visits and surveys of the 15 participants, but is written collectively, in a way that is intended to be helpful for all food businesses that are looking to improve or grow their operation. 

More than 50 references and hyperlinks are also provided, so the reader can follow up with additional information as needed.

Additional co-authors were Shannon Coleman, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition at Iowa State, and Victor Oyervides, program specialist with the Small Business Development Center at Iowa State. This project was funded through the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.