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Growers/Agribusiness


CIFT provides technical solutions to Ohio companies involved with Growers and Agricultural Producers.  We help our clients with emerging technologies, industry best practices
beans and novel business approaches.  Our business advisors work with university researchers and government agencies on food safety and quality, new product and package development, manufacturing productivity, and small business development and training. 


CIFT provides the following services for food producers:

Hoop Houses

Although traditionally engaged in the processing and end product aspects of the food industry, CIFT also studies enhanced growing practices.  One such growing practice is the hoop house.  Made of galvanized steel arches covered with polyethylene plastic, 

Hoop_house_harvest

hoop houses are typically temporary frames with no permanent foundation.  The structures also feature adjustable side vents which provide a cheaper means of temperature control than traditional mechanical means.  A hoop house can be constructed in various sizes that are conducive to growing different vegetables.

Hoop houses provide an economical way to increase profits and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, use minimal land area and less energy than traditional greenhouse structures.  Learn more about the benefits of a hoop house by clicking here.

Food Safety Consulting

CIFT offers a full range of food safety services to food processors through microbiological consulting and testing, food safety auditing, and food safety and quality training.  Producers developing a new food product require microbial assistance and shelf stability testing.  Fruit and vegetable producers can benefit from a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) consultation in efforts to prepare for required certifications from retailers.  Mock audits reflect progress towards preparation of the USDA audit.  Training seminars are also offered to demonstrate proper handling and production of food products including worker hygiene and sanitation practices.

In collaboration with the Ohio Farm Bureau, CIFT has conducted food safety and GMP audits with growers throughout Ohio and Indiana ensuring quality and safety in production.

New Market Opportunities

Growers can enhance business by exploring new markets for their products.  CIFT's agribusiness advisors will help you understand how to market to consumers and provide the opportunities, issues and benefits associated with farmers' markets, and other venues.

Through direct marketing, more income remains with the producer while consumers benefit from fresh, wholesome alternative products with minimal processing.

CIFT is supported by the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop program in exploring the following initiatives: innovative food safety documentation tools, dehydration of produce, and production and processing of edamame. All of these programs will provide information to growers interested in expanding operations, exploring new markets, or enhancing production.

For more information, download our free Producers' Resource Guide and visit Ohio's MarketMaker - an interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in Ohio, providing an important link between producers and consumers.

corn

MarketMaker

MarketMaker is a national partnership of land grant institutions and state departments of Agriculture dedicated to the development of a comprehensive interactive database of food industry marketing and business data.  MarketMaker is a platform that seeks to foster business relationships between producers and consumers of food industry products and services.  Click here to learn more.

Technology Transfer

Through CIFT's consortium of member companies including food processors, equipment manufacturers and institutions, multiple research projects are conducted addressing an agreed industry challenge.  CIFT serves as the catalyst in advancing the research component and implementing it within the marketplace.  Commercializing technology strengthens the proficiency, productivity and profitability of agribusinesses in the state of Ohio and the nation.  By directly connecting the processor and researcher, technology transfer is heightened and accelerated via immediate need and available avenue for implementation.  Click here to learn more.

Cooperative Development

Effective business models adapt to and evolve with market conditions.  CIFT serves the critical needs of small-scale farmers trying to survive in an increasingly competitive environment.  Opportunities exist for producers to foster new cooperatives or strengthen existing ones.  CIFT's network of business advisors offers individuals information, technical assistance, and training on cooperative efforts.  Groups of producers can get help with developing a concept and transforming a cooperative into a viable business entity.

 

 

   

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Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen

NOCKBorn out of northwest Ohio's rich tradition in fruit and vegetable production and food processing, the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) focuses on the development and production of specialty, value added foods.

The NOCK is a nonprofit commercial kitchen facility designed to assist entrepreneurial efforts and expand current food-related businesses.  For a complete list of current NOCK tenants, please click here. For a printable version of current NOCK tenants, please click here.

The kitchen facility assists new and growing businesses by providing access to a commercially licensed kitchen, networking opportunities with other like entities and technical assistance.

The kitchen incubator's services and resources bridge the gap between an idea and reality.  It is costly to start a small-scale food manufacturing operation when exploring a food based venture. However, new and growing businesses can avoid this initial expenditure by utilizing the commercial kitchen until the business is viable and ready to graduate to its own manufacturing facility.

The kitchen facility maintains a baking and canning license and is approved by both the Wood County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  Therefore, most of the foods produced in the kitchen can be marketed and sold in local, regional, and national markets.  At this time, the facility cannot accommodate products with meat or alcohol.  All ingredients must be fit for human consumption.

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The commercial kitchen is approximately 560 square feet and includes an additional dry storage area measuring approximately 90 square feet.  Available equipment includes a six burner stove, bakery depth convection oven, tilting braiser, Hobart mixer with attachments, refrigerator and freezer, three compartment sink, vegetable preparation sink, hand wash sink, dry storage racks, stainless steel work surfaces, proofing box, and rolling racks.

In addition to the commercial kitchen, a food processing area is available for rent.  The space includes a grade level loading dock with overhead door, a single cylinder piston filler with an unscrambling and accumulation table, steam jacketed kettles, and a labeling machine.  Additionally a Hobart industrial dish washing machine, pH meter, soiled dish table with sink, clean dish table, hand sink, vegetable prep sink, and stainless steel work tables are available.  There are even storage cages large enough to accommodate pallets and shelves for storing ingredients and packaging material.  Two walk in cooler units 10 by 20 feet offer refrigeration and freezer storage capabilities.

Equally, one of the greenhouses attached to the main building serves as additional warehouse space, complete with individual storage cages.  The greenhouse measures a total of 3,200 square feet, divided into four individual bays each measuring 20 by 40 feet (800 square feet each).  All of these elements accommodate the needs of kitchen tenants working to establish their business.

Requirements

In order for a client to use the NOCK, the tenant must have a business plan, at least $500,000 of general liability and product liability insurance, and pay a $200 deposit refundable upon termination of the lease.  All tenants must meet the approval of the Agricultural Incubator Foundation (AIF) board, and complete NOCK's orientation and training program.  Upon signing a lease, kitchen time must be reserved in advance and is on a first come, first served basis with availability any day or time.  Scheduling assists in assuring more than one business is not working at the same time in the same area eliminating the difficulty in accessing equipment and maintaining confidentiality in recipe and process.  No information collected by NOCK staff will be shared with other entities unless required to do so by regulatory agencies.

Leasing policy

Pre-paid rent is required prior to utilization of the kitchen.  The rental rate is $20 per hour with a four hour minimum per production period ($80 minimum per use).  The hourly fee helps cover the cost of utilities and general maintenance of the kitchen equipment, facility and as well as licenses.  The area is a shared use space, therefore, proper cleaning and sanitation practices are strictly enforced and staff reserves the right to limit access or fine any tenant not meeting expectations.  During the orientation process, the procedures will be reviewed as sanitation practices are essential in any food handling location to ensure safety for consumers.

Services

Assistance is available for entrepreneurs pursuing the food industry, and NOCK staff can offer names and contact information directing clients to appropriate resources.  Certain small business development services carry a nominal fee.

Product information

NOCK assistance includes providing information on everything from recipe modifications for mass production, to outlets for packaging materials, to linking small businesses with food science experts.  Periodically, workshops are conducted to address issues relating to establishing a food business.  Previous sessions have focused on food safety, business planning, marketing, pricing of food products and entering retail outlets, to name a few.  Links to information on regulatory issues surrounding pH and shelf-life testing, nutritional analysis and product labeling are also available.

WillysFood safety information

Good Manufacturer Practices are applied and enforced.

Resources available

The facility as a whole was created recognizing the need for affordable services and rental spaces for agricultural-related purposes.  At the same time, it is important for tenants and members to recognize there are costs associated with developing, implementing and maintaining the programs, facilities, equipment, licenses, and permits.  Rental fees are collected monthly from tenants to cover utilities, maintenance and insurance needs of the property.

Farmland

The Agricultural Incubator Foundation is a unique research facility.  Each company that leases a research plot treats the plot as if it were their own farm using their own people and equipment to plant, tend, gather data and harvest crops.

The farmland is comprised of Hoytville silty clay loam soil, which is representative of 80 percent of the farmland in northwest Ohio and therefore, makes the facility a prime research location.  The facility features wide drives and grassed waterways for easy access to plots, a surface drainage system, and a subsurface drainage system with 40 feet spacing.  There are two pumps that remove water from surface and subsurface drain systems.

The property consists of approximately 135.9 acres (101.1 farmable acres), 14.6 acres of woods, and an additional 11 acres is utilized for buildings, ponds, drives, etc.

Greenhouses

Two greenhouses are attached to the main building, one is being used for storage purposes.  Each greenhouse is 3,200 square feet, divided into four individual bays each measuring 20 x 40 feet (800 square feet each).

Main office building

The main office building consists of the following and is available for local businesses or organizations to use:

  • Conference room available for a minimal fee 
  • Four offices (office space is not available at this time)
  • Four restrooms - two men, one women, and one unisex handicap accessible
  • Two attached greenhouses 
  • Utilities include: well water, natural gas and the main electrical supply is 480 volt three phase, also available: three ph 240v, one ph 240v, and 120v.


Directions

From the north: Take I-75 south to State Route 582, exit 187, Luckey/Haskins.  Turn west (right) on Middleton Pike/582 and continue approximately 2.2 miles.  AIF will be on the south (left) side of the road.

From the south: Take I-75 north to State Route 582, exit 187, Luckey/Haskins.  Turn West (left) on Middleton Pike/582 and continue approximately 2.2 miles.  AIF will be on the south (left) side of the road.

Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK)
13737 Middleton Pike
Bowling Green, OH 43402

For more information, contact Paula Ray at 419-535-6000, ext. 117 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

 


   

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Central Ohio Food Contest Winners Announced

Mitchell_Cameron
Central Ohio is rich with signature food products developed locally, but recognized regionally and nationally.  The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Ohio Department of Development and the Central Ohio Restaurant Association, sponsored the first-ever Central Ohio Signature Food Contest in December 2010 which showcases many new local products ready to take that next step – actual product development.

Cameron Mitchell, president/founder, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, and David Beck, president and CEO, CIFT, recognized the three winners selected based on their product concepts:

Caramel_puffcorn•    Liz Corzine of Chillicothe, OH, for her caramel puffcorn – Kernelless popcorn coated with homemade caramel.  This product melts in your mouth and is great for small children, the elderly, and everyone in between.Irish_egg_roll
•    Tim Picciano of Dublin, OH, for his Irish egg roll – Delicious, large, hand-rolled egg rolls, filled with tender corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.  Delicately deep fried and served with Thousand Island dressing.
•    Ann Trudel of Fredericktown, OH, for her Brussels Sprouts gourmet relish – Perfect blend of Brussels Sprouts and peppers in an exciting spicy, hot/sweet marinate with the savory lingering of onion and garlic.

Brussels_Sprouts_RelishFollowing a review of written applications and presentations by food entrepreneurs and chefs to a panel of judges, the highest scoring concepts were selected based on the viability of the product, commercialization potential, business strategy, and overall appeal to the marketplace.

As a result of the award, direct consultation and technical assistance from CIFT staff will be provided to the start up businesses ranging from business planning, product/process development, shelf stability testing, labeling review, regulatory assistance, and batch product preparations for sampling.  Later, production will begin at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), a nonprofit commercial facility that educates and advises new and growing businesses, and provides access to a commercially-licensed kitchen.

Contact Paula Ray, small business coordinator, CIFT, at 419-823-3099 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.       


   

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Green products growth continues with USDA program

Soy_leafThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred program promotes the use of ecologically-friendly, biobased materials as a replacement for those materials made from petroleum and other non-renewable resources.  In late 2010, more than 500 new items were approved, bringing the total to more than 5,000 products listed in the USDA’s BioPreferred procurement program catalog.

The Northwest Ohio Green Products Center (NOGPC), a collaborative effort created by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), continues to play a key role in bringing some of these 5,000 products to fruition.  NOGPC provides resources, technical assistance and business expertise to regional entrepreneurs or established manufacturers who currently produce, or plan to produce, green or biobased products – with the goal to receive approval for federal and state procurement.

Biobased products are composed, in whole or significant part, from renewable plant or animal materials, and range from adhesives and construction materials to paints and fuel additives.  There are a variety of reasons for producing and using green products, such as enhancing energy security by reducing dependence on fossil fuels (particularly imported oil) and providing a cleaner environment, among others.

Now appearing in the U.S. Congress Congressional Record, the recent addition designated the following items with federal procurement preference: disposable tableware, expanded polystyrene foam recycling products, heat transfer fluids, ink removers and cleaners, mulch and compost materials, multipurpose lubricants, topical pain relief products and turbine drip oils.

Overall, the designated products will improve demand for biobased products, spur development of the industrial base through value-added agricultural processing and manufacturing in rural communities, and enhance the nation’s energy security by substituting biobased products for products derived from imported oil and natural gas.

For more information, contact the NOGPC through Jim Matzinger, program coordinator, CIFT, at 419-535-6000, ext. 111 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  To view the online USDA BioPreferredSM procurement program catalog, visit www.biopreferred.gov/catalog.aspx.            

   

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Green Products Center


The Green Products Center (GPC) is a collaborative effort among several partnering organizations, including the Center for Innovative Food Technology, to provide the resources, technical assistance and business expertise to regional entrepreneurs or established manufacturers who currently produce, or plan to produce, green or biobased products.


Green_globe1Biobased products are composed, in whole or significant part, from renewable plant or animal materials rather than synthetic chemicals or hydrocarbons and petroleum-based ingredients.  Biobased products range from adhesives and construction materials to paints and fuel additives.

There are a variety of reasons for producing and using green products.  Biobased materials:
•    Enhance energy security by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, particularly imported oil
•    Stimulate jobs in rural areas and provide economic advancement through advanced technology
•    Provide a cleaner environment
•    Make good business sense overall.

Green products growth continues with USDA program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred program promotes the use of ecologically-friendly, biobased materials as a replacement for those materials made from petroleum and other non-renewable resources.  In late 2010, more than 500 new items were approved, bringing the total to more than 5,000 products listed in the USDA's BioPreferred procurement program catalog.

The GPC continues to play a key role in bringing some of these 5,000 products to fruition.  GPC provides resources, technical assistance and business expertise to regional entrepreneurs or established manufacturers who currently produce, or plan to produce, green or biobased products – with the goal to receive approval for federal and state procurement.

Biobased products are composed, in whole or significant part, from renewable plant or animal materials, and range from adhesives and construction materials to paints and fuel additives.  There are a variety of reasons for producing and using green products, such as enhancing energy security by reducing dependence on fossil fuels (particularly imported oil) and providing a cleaner environment, among others.

Now appearing in the U.S. Congress Congressional Record, the recent addition designated the following items with federal procurement preference: disposable tableware, expanded polystyrene foam recycling products, heat transfer fluids, ink removers and cleaners, mulch and compost materials, multipurpose lubricants, topical pain relief products and turbine drip oils.

Overall, the designated products will improve demand for biobased products, spur development of the industrial base through value-added agricultural processing and manufacturing in rural communities, and enhance the nation’s energy security by substituting biobased products for products derived from imported oil and natural gas.

To learn more about getting a product listed inthe USDA BioPreferred catalog, please click here.


Partner organizations

cift_logo BGSU_logo Lucas_County_Improvement_Corporation_logo UT_logo
Regional_Growth_Partnership_logo ODOD_logo Toledo_Regional_Chamber_of_Commerce_logo2



Contact Us

Center for Innovative Food Technology
Green Products Center

5555 Airport Hwy., Ste. 100
Toledo, Ohio 43615-7320
419-535-6000, ext. 109
877-668-3472 (toll free)
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

   

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Farmers Markets

Farmers_market1Consumers today are expressing renewed interest in buying food directly from the farmer or grower.  At one time, farmers markets flourished.  Over the years, with improved transportation, improved storage facilities and modern mass merchandising, local farmers markets slowly disappeared.

Times change.

The increasing price of gasoline and other transportation costs, partnered with the consumers' new awareness of the importance of fresh vegetables and fruit in the diet are creating new opportunities for marketing local produce through farmers markets.  You don’t realize just what you are missing until you can finally purchase local strawberries.  These bright red small gems are sold in the age old balsam quarts they have for generations.  The taste is one of sweetness and the earth flavor from which they were picked.  Then you truly know why people buy local from farmers markets.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that as of 2010, there are more than 6,100 farmers markets across the country.  In 1994, there were only 1,755.
Produce2
Farmers markets are an ancient method used by farmers worldwide to sell their produce directly to consumers.  As U.S. food productio n became increasingly industrialized and specialized, farmers markets were replaced by brokers and supermarkets.  In the past two decades, however, farmers markets in the U.S. have rapidly regained popularity.

Farmers find a number of advantages in selling at farmers markets.  By selling directly to their customers without going through middlemen, farmers can charge retail prices for their produce.  A farmers market is a good place for new growers who are perfecting production skills and learning which products customers want most.  In addition, many growers enjoy the interaction with customers and other vendors.

Toledo_Farmers_MarketFor customers, too, the farmers market is not just a place to buy food, but a social affair.  A festive atmosphere helps to bring people to markets, where they can talk with farmers about how the produce was grown and how it can be prepared.  Markets are starting up everywhere.  Currently in northwest Ohio, the Toledo Farmers Market is downtown, while many other communities across these 18 counties hold one throughout the growing season.

There's much to like about farmers markets: fresh local vegetables and fruits picked at their peak, colorful cut flowers and herbs to add beauty and flavor to the table and the pot; baked goods, fresh eggs and poultry are intermingled with local crafts.

Now is the time to check out your local farmers market to see what local farmers have to offer.  Food that is fresh and local fits right into the nationa l dialogue on food and the importance of cutting travel distance to the plate, and knowing where and how the food was grown.  Farmers_market2Consumers who purchase locally not only help support the farmers in the area, but they are helping the local economy since the money stays here.  Local foods have better flavor than the well-traveled, tired varieties sold in grocery stores.  If you are not sure, just taste a warm-from-the-field fresh local tomato and compare it to one from the store.  So, come on down to the market, any market; the sights and smells of Mother Nature's bounty await those who look for fresh.


   

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Farm to School Project

School lunches have not always been particularly healthy, and the school environment is not always entirely supportive of healthy food choices.  Surveys in the early 1990’s showed that lunches exceeded the recommended daily allowances for fat and saturated fats. 

Girl_at_lunchIn response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children (SMI) which included technical and educational resources for schools and new standards for the nutritional content of school lunches.  In the years following, the implementation of the SMI program, most schools made changes in lunch menus to comply with national dietary guidelines.  An unexpected consequence of these menu changes was a perception among school food authorities that students like the new lunches better than the previous menus by considerable margins.  In general, cafeterias managers also tended to report less waste with the new menus as well.  In essence, the outcome of making meals healthier for students was to increase students’ enjoyment and reduce the amount of food left on their plates.

School lunches often compete with foods that are not regulated by federal guidelines and often offer limited nutritional value.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2000, 98 percent of high schools, 74 percent of middle schools and 43 percent of elementary schools allowed student purchases of foods and beverages from vending machines, school stores, canteens and snack bars.

Furthermore, some schools choose to offer competing lunch options that are outside the USDA lunch program that are more appealing to students.  Among these are a la carte options, particularly prevalent in upper grades, which allow students to choose only items that appeal to them.

A study by the USDA indicated that nine out of 10 schools offer a la carte options for students, principally fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, cookies or other baked goods not low in fat, or pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches.  Districts use of a la carte and vending machines can vary widely.  A report from California indicated that a la carte sales represented up to 70 percent of all food sold in schools.

Boy_at_lunchA la carte sales represent a shift in school food revenue, and as such, generally are seen as having only limited impact on school budgets.  Indeed, because a la carte offerings may be more attractive to students, they may actually increase food sales.  Vending machines, on the other hand, generate revenue for school systems, but these gains are offset by losses to school meal programs.  In the past, school lunches were derived from mostly local sources and prepared on site just prior to being served.  The food industry that supplies restaurant and schools has been able to increase production, preparation and storage along with changes within distribution networks.  All these changes signaled a shift to more highly processed foods bought from farms in any number of locations.  Schools in the ‘60’s through the 70’s had bigger budgets to spend on kitchen help when the federal government had a surplus of commodities.

Unfortunately, the ‘80’s and ‘90’s burst that bubble and schools were forced to look at ways they could economize.  This meant the number of lunch staff who prepared meals from scratch was now thinned out.

Lunches were made in a central kitchen from companies that supplied highly processed, heat-and-eat lunches that were economical and met the nutritional standards.  Individual school kitchens were empty of fresh local produce, hot just-made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and freshly baked breads and rolls.  The schools could now hire fewer staff that only needed to know how to work on oven and dishwasher, all to keep the budget in check.  In order to save their budgets, many schools signed contracts with large beverage companies who were willing to pay millions of dollars to schools for the rights to install their soft drink vending machines in all the schools in the district.

Time marches on.  Schools no longer teach Home Economics where students learned from middle school on about cooking, nutrition and making good food choices.  Nutrition is something students see on posters in the lunchroom, a handout, and maybe a classroom exercise.  Schools are focusing on teaching the core subjects, and health and nutrition are low on the priority list when it comes to state testing.

It is also a very difficult time for schools.  On one hand they are discussing how students need to eat healthy and make good choices for lunch, but many schools have become dependant on the revenue from vending machines to cover items not in the budget.  So limiting access to vending machines limits their own revenue.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution.

School nutrition directors often voice concern about the introduction of new foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, into the school lunch program.  Specifically, a worry is that students will not eat these foods, thus increasing waste, or will shun school lunches entirely, affecting the financial bottom line of the school lunch program.  There have been some success stories that have fresh local produce in the school cafeterias.  Students ate the local fresh fruits and vegetables if they were on the menu; it just takes time to get it on the menu.  Some successes included a local food day theme in the cafeteria where all local products were served.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Campaign
In an effort to bring together moms and dads, teachers, doctors, nurses and community leaders, First Lady, Michelle Obama, launched the Let's Move! campaign to help tackle the challenge of childhood obesity.  Additionally, learn more about the USDA's guidelines for student lunches.


School_lunch

Department of Defense
Since 1994, the Department of Defense (DoD) has allowed hospital, schools and prisons the use of their produce buying services.  The Department’s Logistics Agency operates two programs, including one – the DoD Farm to School Program (DoD F2SP) – which specifically seeks out local produce.  Both programs are likely to purchase items from nearby, whenever possible.  Schools can choose from up to 300 produce items, which vary with the season, to be delivered to them at a place and time that they designate.

Schools take attendance and submit their findings to the government, federal and state.  These bodies in turn give the schools a monetary figure per student for lunches.  The money is not given to them, but it represents reimbursement for what they bought for lunches.  Along with this money, the federal government, through DoD F2SP, offers a wide variety of canned, dried and frozen commodities to purchase at a greatly reduced rate.  These commodities can be everything from frozen individual applesauce servings to juices, pasta and beans, even meat.

Currently food service directors make out menus and schedules almost one year ahead of time.  They take into consideration how many children they will be serving and what the USDA has deemed bonus commodities that are offered periodically, which can be canned pineapple, dried beans, frozen cherries, dehydrated potatoes and canned sweet potatoes.  Food service directors are given a yearly listing of distributors, and companies they can do business with.

These suppliers have met the government criteria to be able to sell to the government.  Food service directors use these suppliers for most of their purchases.  They order in large quantities that are shipped as needed, which helps since school kitchens have little to no storage space.  Many of the fresh products like tomatoes and peppers come from local wholesalers who do purchase fruits and vegetables from area farmers.

One such wholesaler in Toledo, Ohio, does minimally processed products that go to schools and restaurants throughout northwest Ohio.  The area wholesalers are on a rotation so that all included in the program get used. The food service directors do have enough play in their budget to go and purchase extra items for treats during the year; they must however, come from a sanctioned supplier.

Commodities offered to the food service people are getting better.  The USDA is offering frozen chicken crumbles and chicken burger style patties.  They are also offering frozen ham in cubes and thin sliced, so they are not all meals made of burgers.  The food service directors get a monthly newsletter from the USDA with updates on what is available.

There are new offerings of turkey products including bulk ground turkey meat for taco filing.  There are also new whole grain products that are added to the list of whole wheat flour, rolled oats, regular brown rice, quick cooking brown rice, whole grain spaghetti, rotini, and macaroni.
School
Food service directors and personnel are able to attend a yearly conference where all the newest products/commodities are shown, and a wide variety of processed food suppliers are there to make sure all schools hear about their products.  Seminars at this conference help directors make good healthy decisions about school lunches to make sure they are safe, appealing to the eye, taste great, are lower in fat, salt, sugar and fit in the budget.

This is a huge undertaking for food service personnel.  They have the task of trying to keep children happy and well fed at a price that fits the budget.  They must try to find different items to fill the vending machines that are healthy, and try to come up with ways the school system can stay in the black.

In Conclusion
Today, the nation’s school lunch program is at a crossroad, faced with nutritional and service problems so serious they make news headlines.  So many issues are involved: nutrition, facilities, childhood obesity, food service, student disinterest, vending, monetary supports through beverage companies, even lack of recess.  All these areas are being addressed at the same time, with the government coming in and mandating health and fitness guidelines.

School_cafeteriaNutritional content and quality of foods served are being looked at closely.  Most meal components are ordered through the Department of Defense, and local fresh fruits and vegetables are not always considered when dollars are looked at to make sure there is a plus in the bottom line.  The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) is working on a program called the Farm to School Project with a few pilot schools to help them find local resources for products they serve in their cafeteria.

CIFT is willing to look for wholesalers that do indeed purchase fruits and vegetables from local farms.  This is an indirect way that the local products will get into the schools.  The partnering of the food service director and CIFT will help form a model that can be used in schools throughout northwest Ohio.

An ongoing project is to fabricate a local food item that can be offered to the schools in northwest Ohio.  At this time, varieties of apples are being tested for their resistance to browning for a project that would get local, pre-sliced apples into the schools.  This project is part of a school lunch task force formed by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.

Issues of Importance:
•    All children and members of their community should have access to safe, affordable, healthy, and nutritious food.
•    Healthy diets positively and directly impact students’ academic performance.
•    Children will make healthy choices because of their involvement with food as part of their school curriculum.
•    Local agriculture is important historically, and for the future.
•    All communities should be investing in their school food system, from the farms, to the cafeterias, to the classrooms.
•    School food policy must change to reflect local, healthy, and nutritious foods available to students.
•    Food literate children will impact and change family purchasing, cooking, and eating patters.
•    Through education on how our food is grown, harvested and prepared, children will gain confidence, develop thinking skills and feel they can control their own health and food choices, and influence their family’s choices.

   

All Growers/Ag Producers News

Farm to Chef Project

 
The quest to buy local foods has been in the news practically every week.  The public is constantly being asked to purchase fresh produce from their local farmers at their stands or at a farmers market.


FarmerEveryone can tell the difference between a local green bean steamed to perfection, and the canned version put on a plate.  Consumers know the difference and chefs do also.  The project has been to get the farmers and chefs to work together to put seasonal produce on their tables for the consumers.  Not only is buying local good for the health of the people, but it also helps the environment and the local economy.  Chefs buying local help farmers make a living and keep their farmland from becoming another housing development or retail center.

chefThe Farm to Chef movement in northwest Ohio, also called the Northwest Ohio Fresh Network, partners more than 50 chefs, cooks and caterers with more than 50 farmers and producers.  This partnership includes letting those who order foods know what fruits and vegetables are available locally that week and who is harvesting them.

Restaurants are a business, and like any business, they must be profitable.  While the bottom line is always in sight, the restaurants still look for ways to bring interesting fruits, vegetables or other items to the menu that will make them heads above the rest.  For example, the chef and staff will look at a regular order for bell peppers for a dish this week.  To the staff a pepper is a pepper, and if they can order from a national  food distributor and it comes to the back door at a relatively inexpensive price, the farmer may have a hard time competing.  However, if a farm highlights they are carrying "jingle bell" miniature bell peppers (no bigger than a silver dollar) – which lets a restaurant taste them to prove they are mature and not bitter – the chefs will take notice and buy the product that will make their dish fantastic.

Why?  Because it is unique and something they cannot get from their wholesale produce house.

ProduceHeirloom tomatoes are making a comeback for this reason.  Heirloom tomatoes are full of great flavor, but are not a tomato that can be shipped like the usual pale orbs the restaurants receive.  The varieties are beautiful, and the chef will pay for the chance to have patrons taste these local beauties that have thin skins that bruise if handled too much.  These kinds of examples are a few of what the restaurants do on a daily basis.  Patrons of restaurants who use local fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses are getting the freshest meals possible.

Fresh produce coming is usually not minimally processed.  It is clean and chilled, but not minced, chopped or sliced.  The nutrients are still in the items, and they remain fresh until they are processed in-house for that night's dinner service.  More room and help will be necessary to process items for dinner, which of course will add to the expenses of the day.  But, when fresh steamed green beans are served with fresh herb butter, the potatoes are colorful fingerlings and the salad has torn local loose leaf lettuces and spinach, and in no way resembles the bagged salad served at home, price does not become an issue.  Patrons savor these dinners.  They tell their friends.  They ask where the items came from, and usually the patrons shop at a local farmers market shortly after a great meal like this to duplicate that great meal at home.

What should you do before contacting a restaurant?  Planning is paramount; being prepared is expected.  With these ideas in mind, here are a few strategies:
•    Write up a history about your farm and be prepared to share your history with others.  Writing it down will make you think and not forget something really important.
•    Make a list of what you are growing, and when things will be available.  If you are going to visit a restaurant during the growing season and have product available, take samples along.
•    Know your product and why it is good or different.
•    Figure a price for all products; take into account by the bushel, box of how many, or by the pound.  This will all help the restaurant when it comes time to order.  Put these prices on a list that can be left, and make sure you have a copy.
•    Look your best, and talk about how you can help the restaurant.  Be friendly.
•    Understand that restaurants are constantly busy; don’t take it to heart if they don’t have time to chit chat, or they ask you to leave everything.
•    Make and take a few business cards.  A card with your name on it can be found easier than the heading on a price list.
•    Check out the menu and clientele of your targets to see that your produce is something they can use.
•    Figure out beforehand if you will be able to deliver items on a regular schedule.


   

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Expanding markets through frozen produce

Berries
Winter is certainly upon us in northwest Ohio, but a service now available will have many delighted for the cold.


The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) will host a free seminar titled, “Expanding markets through frozen produce,” Thurs., Jan. 6, 2011 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the CIFT office, 5555 Airport Hwy., Ste. 100, Toledo, Ohio.

A grower with excess product at the end of the season, an interest in expanding crop selection, or a desire to grow more produce for clients should attend.  Representatives from CIFT will discuss a process using a cryogenic freezer that allows growers to freeze produce, yet retain maximum freshness and taste.

By flash-freezing this produce, within minutes the nutrients (and other desired characteristics) are captured immediately, retaining top freshness and preventing undesirable large ice crystals from forming because the molecules do not have time to form into the standard six-sided snowflake.

Bon Appétit Management Company will be on hand to discuss their purchasing desires associated with fresh, local produce that is frozen.  Equally, learn about varieties of crops most suited to the freezing process.  This information will explore new market opportunities for growers and buyers interested in local products throughout the year.

Reservations are not required, but space is limited.  Guests can reserve a seat in advance by calling Louise Mikesell-Wireman at 419-535-6000, ext. 112, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .     


   

All Energy/Bio-Based News

Energy/Environmental


CIFT provides the following services for agri-businesses:

Turbine

Alternate Energy Sources

CIFT serves as a clearinghouse of trusted information associated with the production of energy-producing crops. Such crops, suitable to local growing conditions, represent marketing and income enhancement opportunities for agribusinesses. Additional collaboration among industry and academia has resulted in an effort to study alternative crops  for their potential to generate energy or renewable fuels.

CIFT collaborates with several partnering organizations to provide the resources, technical assistance and business expertise to regional entrepreneurs or established manufacturers who currently produce, or plan to produce, green or biobased products. These partners include the Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, From the Earth, and similar organizations dedicated to the advancement of the industry. 

Value-Added Enhancements

Traditional crops are driven by price – making operational efficiency and economies of scale critical to profitability. Specialty crops offer co-ops of producers an opportunity to produce higher value crops on a smaller scale.

CIFT's expert network of business advisors and food-based businesses utilizes industry knowledge and current technology to explore new methods for generating revenue for producers. Concepts are evaluated based on potential for near-term success, low barriers to market entry, specific market potential for products, and tangible benefits such as jobs created and income generated. CIFT conducts feasibility studies and market research on concepts that most closely demonstrate these qualities.

Wastewater Audits

One of the largest controllable expenses that confronts a food processing establishment is the treatment and disposal of wastewater.  The large quantities of water used for processes and sanitation, and the heavy organic loading of the water can generate very large operating costs for a processing plant.

In addition to pretreatment charges, which can be very substantial, many processing companies are forced to pay monthly surcharges due to out of control conditions, which can cause extra expenses for:

  • BOD/COD
  • suspended solids
  • fats, oils and grease
  • pH out of permissible range

CIFT and its network of technical providers has significant experience in dairies, in meat plants, snack food operations, bakeries, canneries, frozen food facilities, and other food processing operations.  Its team can review operations within a plant and make recommendations to reduce these expenses.  

The team will:

  • Evaluate alternate processing and treatment techniques.
  • Recommend monitoring techniques to reduce out of control conditions.
  • Identify source reduction opportunities.
  • Recommend modifications of additions to pretreatment systems.

All of these can generate large savings for your plant.  In some cases, CIFT can arrange for supplemental funding for the audit.  To find out more about Wastewater Audits, other CIFT services, or to schedule an audit, please call a CIFT representative at 419-535-6000 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Compressed Air Systems

Compressed air systems in food processing facilities are frequently the most costly production support utilities system.  System distribution leakage and inadequate compressor controls systems can easily cost thousands of dollars yearly if not addressed.  One leak the size of one-fourth inch in diameter in a 100 psi pressure system can cost up to $10,000 a year.

Following a comprehensive plant study for a CIFT member, measures were identified which resulted in an electric savings of more than 531,000 kilowatt-hours - which translates to a reduction in operating expenses of $41,000 annually.  CIFT utilizes a comprehensive analysis approach to addressing this very costly situation for our clients.

This approach utilizes a thorough facility compressed air system assessment to identify opportunities to reduce energy usage associated with the compressed air system.  Through the identification of leaks by a physical walk down of the systems with specialized detection equipment, analysis of existing technology misapplication, poor operating practices and failed components; recommendations are made for system improvements.

To find out more about Compressed Air Systems, or other CIFT services, please call a CIFT representative at 419-535-6000 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Food Processing Industry Water Usage Audits

The efficient use of water can determine the profitability of a food processing operation.  Whether for processing, for sanitation, or the operation of plant utilities, water use represents one of the largest controllable expenses in a food processing operation.

Most companies monitor water usage very closely, but sometimes "another set of eyes" can be helpful.  The CIFT team has worked for more than 20 years with operations in all sectors of the food industry, and can use this experience to help to identify opportunities for reduced water usage in many different areas, including:

  • Process modifications
  •  Water reuse opportunities
  • Expanded use of "dry cleaning"
  • Reduction of water used for material handling
  • Use of high pressure, low volume systems
  • Changes to sanitation procedures

The CIFT team can review a plant's operations, including production, sanitation, and plant utilities, and recommend improvements to help reduce water usage.  These recommendations can be as simple as the use of spring loaded nozzles on hoses used for sanitation, or as complicated as treatment processes to reuse process or sanitation water.  Past audits have resulted in significant savings for processing companies, both in the cost of water and the additional costs of post usage treatment.

CIFT's background and experiences in the food processing industry ensure that all recommendations and evaluations are completed within the guidelines of food safety and sanitation required by HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) and food safety certification systems such as the Global Food Safety Certification Initiative (GFSI).

CIFT can also help you to set up your own water monitoring system to ensure that efficiencies are maintained.  In some cases, CIFT can even supplement the costs of the audits and reviews.  To find out more about Water Usage Audits, other services, or to schedule an audit, please contact a CIFT representative at 419-535-6000 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Life Cycle Assessments

CIFT is working with various institutions and businesses to develop tools which will allow Ohio manufacturers to improve their competitive position by enhancing their sustainability score and reducing their operational costs by 1) translating Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) data into operational improvements, 2) using “carbon footprint” calculations as marketing data, and 3) using the tools of sustainability measurement as guides in product development efforts.

 


 


 

 



 

   

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