Shari Plimpton, Ph.D.

Getting to Know Shari Plimpton, Ph.D., Vice President, Director of Food Industry Programs

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

We’re continuing our Getting to Know CIFT blog series with our Vice President, Director of Food Industry Programs, Shari Plimpton, Ph.D. Shari has been with CIFT for 20 years and has been at the forefront of innovation in the food industry. We asked her some questions to get a glimpse into her role and what makes her excited to work for CIFT.

What do you do at CIFT?

I guide a team of food scientists and technical specialists to assist food processors with technical issues, including technology acceleration, supply chain issues, food safety, product development, automation and facility development.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

Being of service to the industry that feeds the people of this country and the world.

What has been your favorite project so far? 

Oh, that is a tough one. I have been privileged to work on so many great projects solving important problems. I will confess to having a soft spot for product development, particularly ice cream.

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT? 

We are focused on doing whatever we can to support your business and advance the food industry.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I’ve been face to face with a black bear and got away unscathed.

Get to know more of the CIFT team.

Kareem Hammuda

Getting to Know Kareem Hammuda, Small Business Development Specialist

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

In this edition of Getting to Know CIFT blog series, we are learning a little more about our newest team member, Small Business Development Specialist, Kareem Hammuda. Kareem started with CIFT in September 2021 and will play a huge role with the small businesses we work with at our Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen. We asked him some questions to get a glimpse into his role and what makes him excited for this new opportunity.

What do you do at CIFT?

I help assist small businesses and new entrepreneurs grow or start their business.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work? 

I have always been the type of person who likes to help and make a difference to people. What I like most about my position is I can do just that. I am amazed at the product and ideas people have and what they have accomplished. I love that I get to be part of their success story. That’s why I love my job. 

What do you like the most about working at CIFT?

I love how CIFT creates opportunities for people. CIFT gives them the tools and resources to succeed with their amazing programs and the NOCK. I’m really looking forward to the Food Entrepreneur Boot Camp course because it will help answer some of the questions local entrepreneurs may have when starting their business. 

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT?

I am here to help you grow. My main job is to help your small business. If you need help with any new product, service, or just want to say hello, feel free to contact me. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I am the owner of Finjan Coffee Co. which produces Turkish Style Cold Brew. Being an entrepreneur myself, I understand the challenges faced when starting on your own. It’s hard, but if we work together, it will become easier. My personal motto is “Together, we can make a difference.” I use that in everything I do. 

Get to know more of the CIFT team. 

Holly Clapp

Getting to Know Holly Clapp, Accounting Clerk and Human Resources

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

Next up in our Getting to Know CIFT blog series is our Accounting Clerk and Human Resources, Holly Clapp. Holly has been with CIFT for a little over 11 years and she is vital in the day-to-day success of the company and employees. We asked her some questions to get a glimpse into her role and what makes her excited to work for CIFT.

What do you do at CIFT?

I perform general accounting and human resource functions along with various related duties, reports and keep CIFT in compliance with labor laws and postings.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

I enjoy the people I work with and knowing I can be the person they can turn to for assistance. Whether it’s by helping them with paperwork, getting them something they need, or being someone that can listen to their problems or concerns.

What do you like the most about CIFT and/or your job?

I really enjoy planning company celebrations and events for staff team building and accomplishments. I like that I can be the face of the company during the hiring process when connecting with applicants and have had many compliments from them.

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT?

My job has evolved in many ways since I started here and I am happy that I have become more comfortable along with management in my role and responsibilities. I love to keep busy and have many things going at the same time while helping others as much as possible.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love to cook and plan parties. I love trying new recipes my daughter finds on Pinterest. Our whole family enjoys cooking together from a small family meal or a large gathering. Basically they are my sous chefs and I boss them around, but it’s very satisfying when it all comes together perfectly.

Get to know more of the CIFT team.

Nancy Hansen

Getting to Know Nancy Hansen, Database and Office Assistant

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

We’re continuing our Getting to Know CIFT series with our Database and Office Assistant, Nancy Hansen. Nancy has been with CIFT since the beginning, 26 years. She works with operations behind the scenes and makes sure all information is entered correctly which helps the company be successful. We asked Nancy some questions to get a glimpse into her role and what makes her excited to go to work every day.

What do you do at CIFT?

I work with CIFT’s database system, entering and maintaining information and creating reports. For events, I maintain reservations and help with mailings. I also assist with preparing training workshop materials and with member project proposals.

What has been your favorite project/initiative so far?

Before CIFT was called CIFT, the company was known as FTC (Food Technology Center) which was a contract with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). That gave me the opportunity to travel, attend various food related industry conferences and expo’s, as well as setting up meetings in various cities across the United States. It was a great way to learn about the food industry and all that goes into the manufacturing of food for consumers. I got the opportunity to meet a lot of food industry and related persons.

It’s been great assisting with all the firsts of CIFT, especially the event at The Culinary Vegetable Institute/Chef’s Garden. This is a hidden gem in Ohio which I hope we have helped others recognize. It is always a pleasure to meet all the CIFT members that attend this annual recognition event. I really enjoy meeting and interacting with the various people from fellow employees, to congressmen, Mayor’s, Governor’s, food entrepreneurs and food industry employees.

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT?

Even though I am not a project manager, I consider my role a behind the scenes that assists in keeping the organization running.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

As a pre-teen/teenager, I was a majorette with a group that traveled and performed in various parades, from Toledo, OH, Holland, MI, Milwaukee, WI, to Miami, FL including the Macy Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. I enjoy reading, cooking, traveling and time spent with family.

Get to know more of the CIFT team.

food truck owner

5 Tips to Start a Food Business

Do you want to start your own food business? 

Starting your own food business is not as easy as making your special sauce at home and selling it to friends and family. There’s a lot to consider and know before taking the plunge. Do you know how to increase batch sizes without compromising the flavor? Or what about specific requirements to sell at farmers markets, online, or beyond?

To be successful and avoid issues, it is essential to have a plan in place. Here are the top five tips to consider before starting a food business:

1. Have a Business Plan

Get educated on your own product and know all your details. Know your costs, do a competitive analysis and understand what makes you unique. Determine where you would sell your product.

2. Incorporate the Business

Make sure to keep your business separate from your personal finances for organizational and tax purposes.

3. Understand Regulatory Licensing and Registration

Ensure that you are compliant with state and/or federal requirements unique to your food product.

4. Food Safety Training

All companies must comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and other safety practices to ensure food is ready for consumers.

5. Product and General Liability Insurance

This is critical. Various outlets, including retail stores, will require this before allowing an item onto their shelves.

We have experts on staff at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK), a program of CIFT, that can assist you each step of the way through an onboarding process, no matter where you are in your journey. Our food business specialists and experts have helped hundreds of early stage food producers scale up their products and enter new markets. Learn how we can help you.

Many have successfully launched a product under our guidance and we look forward to making your ideas a reality! 

Have questions about the NOCK? Read our frequently asked questions and important facts about the facility.

Kathy Hermiller

Getting to Know Kathy Hermiller, Vice President, Finance and Administration

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

We’re continuing our Getting to Know CIFT series with our Vice President, Finance and Administration, Kathy Hermiller. Kathy has been with CIFT from the start, 25 years. Her financial and administrative duties ensure the business runs smoothly each and every day. We asked Kathy some questions to get a glimpse into her role and what makes her excited to go to work every day.

What do you do at CIFT? 

I oversee the company finances as well as our administrative functions such as human resources, database work and IT.  I also manage the federal and state grants we receive.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

Knowing that our people are helping other companies be better, which in turn helps our local and state economy. The fact that our goal is to help others in our region excel is a pretty cool thing.

What do you like the most about working at CIFT?

I have been here a very long time and what I love is how this company has shifted to what the industry needs. I have worked with so many people with such different backgrounds and have learned a lot from them all. We have some very smart people working at CIFT and I just love hearing what they are doing.

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT?

I have always loved getting into the details of things and problem solving. In this job, especially with grants compliance, it is really a necessity to be detail-oriented. For me, there is a lot of pride when my team’s hard work pays off in a clean audit.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Well, it is not exactly a secret that I love sports – love watching them and in my youth playing them. I spend a lot of time watching my kids at their different sporting events and I also enjoy golfing. And I am impatiently awaiting my beloved Detroit Tiger’s to win a World Series in my adult life!

Get to know more of the CIFT team!

Cooper Farms logo

3D Printing Saves Food Company Thousands

Cooper Farms is a family owned, diversified farm and food company based in Northwest and West Central Ohio, an area rich in agricultural tradition. The company originally started with one man’s idea to raise and sell turkeys to his friends and family. Now, Cooper Farms has grown into two hatcheries, a meat processing plant, an egg processing plant and feed mills for turkeys, hogs and chickens.

As technology has advanced and efficiencies with feeding have developed, turkey breast sizes have grown over the years as well. The cook pan that Cooper Farms was using no longer worked for the larger turkeys and they were looking to adjust the cook pan sizes. However, they were not sure what the ideal dimensions of the new pans should be. If they worked with their current pan supplier, they would have had to invest in a new mold which would cost around $40,000 just to get samples. So, if the new size did not work, they would have to continue to repeat the sample process until they found the ideal new pan size, resulting in thousands of dollars for testing.

With Cooper Farms being a long time member of CIFT, they reached out to see if CIFT had any connections that could 3D print a sample pan to conduct a trial run. CIFT’s large network worked in Cooper Farms’ favor and connected them with JuggerBot 3D to discuss a solution. Due to the shape and size of the pan, if JuggerBot 3D tried to print a pan, there was a strong likelihood that it could break and not hold up through the cook cycle and it would not closely resemble the finished product. So, the team decided to reverse engineer the pan to create a mold, which could then be used to create multiple pans, equivalent to the same material as the pans Cooper Farms is currently using.

By reverse engineering a mold, the team was able to supply Cooper Farms with 25 pans to conduct trial runs. This saved Cooper Farms $50,000 and they were then able to invest $40,000 in a new mold with their current pan provider that was tested and proven to work.

“Being a CIFT member has provided us with connections we never would have thought about before. We always thought 3D printing was more for auto manufacturing. We never thought we could find a use for it with turkey processing. It was really quite advantageous with speed, time and cost. I see the advantage of using 3D printing in the food industry to help me as a product development guy to create new items that our customers want.” Dale Siebeneck, Director of Product Development & Regional Sales at Cooper Farms

Read more success stories.

Brinkman's logo

Custom Automated Processing Line Delivers Huge Value

Brinkman's Value Created

Brinkman’s Cannery and Greenhouse, located in Findlay, OH, processes turkey, chicken, beef, pork and other related food products. The company provides canning for individuals looking for an alternative to freezing. Quality is the family tradition and their products are all natural, fully cooked, ready to heat and serve, with no refrigeration required. The workers in the cannery hand pack the cans to produce the finest product in the region.

In order to meet the growing demand for their products and improve the overall production capacity, Brinkman’s identified a need to add a new automated processing line. For help with process engineering, Brinkman’s contacted CIFT.

CIFT’s engineering team worked closely with Brinkman’s to design and install a new automated processing line. The processing line was uniquely set-up to fit Brinkman’s current needs, while also allowing for future scalability with existing equipment. Part of Brinkman’s high-quality products include a manual, hand pack aspect, so the new processing line was also designed to complement those key manual operations in the process. 

From this automated processing line project, Brinkman’s was able to retain 8 jobs and increase sales by $300,000. They also retained $1,000,000 in sales and saved over $25,000 in costs, while avoiding $20,000 in unnecessary investments.

“Collaborating with CIFT’s engineering team took a huge burden off my shoulders, freeing me up to do the necessary in-house work that comes with day-to-day operations. The work was quick and efficient, and the system was designed and installed smoothly.” — Dustin Brinkman, Cannery Manager at Brinkman’s Cannery and Greenhouse

To learn more about our food processing and engineering services, visit our food processing webpage.

Read more success stories.


#essential – the untold story of the Ohio food industry and the pandemic

New short film explores the story of food production in Ohio during the pandemic

The pandemic that began in March 2020 disrupted every aspect of our live. Our first responders and medical workers deservedly have been recognized for all of their work to help get us back through.

But one aspect of the pandemic rarely gets discussed: Food production couldn’t shut down. People still needed to eat. And the way people needed to get their food had changed almost instantly.

Because of our work at CIFT, we had a front row seat to the choices and challenges the people who keep us fed had to face and make. What we witnessed amazed us and filled us with pride for our industry.

This is a story that needs to be told. And because of our unique position serving the state of Ohio, we decided to create a documentary short to give the public a glimpse behind their grocery shelves and take-out packages.

Online Premiere Details

We have finished the film and are excited to announce the online premiere of #essential – the untold story of the Ohio food industry and the pandemic. The premiere will be on August 26th at 2pm via our Facebook and YouTube channels.

The premiere will be followed by an online Q&A with our team as well as participants from the film. If you are interested in participating in the Q&A, please contact Todd Underwood at for more information. Registration is limited for that portion, so please register early.

To join live, learn more at our website.

graymont logo

Arc Flash Assessment Helps Achieve OSHA and NFPA Compliance

graymont value created

Graymont, a family owned company in operation for over 70 years, is a global leader in lime and limestone solutions. The company’s products address today’s environmental issues while supporting industrial processes and agricultural needs. Uses for Graymont’s products include the purification of air and water, and the production of essential items including steel, paper, and metals. The Genoa, Ohio Graymont location employs 48 and is primarily engaged in manufacturing quicklime, hydrated lime, and “dead-burned” dolomite from limestone, dolomite shells, or other substances.

In order to ensure their employees safety as well as to be compliant with OSHA, in cooperation with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements, Graymont needed to conduct an Arc Flash Assessment. An Arc Flash Assessment is a study of the facility’s power system to determine the incident energy available at specific electrical devices that employees would be exposed to while “interacting with” the electrical equipment at the facility.

OSHA 1910.132 requires that employers identify and protect their workers from workplace hazards. Every industrial/commercial power system includes inherent risks – specifically electrical shock and Arc Flash, anytime employees are “interacting with” electrical equipment while energized. Interacting with electrical equipment includes operation of fully enclosed switches and power circuit breakers as well as any exposure to energized equipment or circuit parts, including all energized testing or troubleshooting activities.

NFPA 70E – Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, Section 110.1 – requires “the employer shall implement and document an overall electrical safety program that directs activity appropriate to the risk of electrical hazards. The electrical safety program shall be implemented as part of the employer’s overall occupational health and safety management system, when one exists.” The section specifically includes identifying and quantifying the risks of both shock and arc flash hazards, before work begins.

CIFT, the northwest Ohio MEP, coordinated an Arc Flash Assessment for Graymont using Matrix Technologies, a service provider with expertise in this field. The project consisted of a short-circuit analysis and an Arc Flash analysis, to meet OSHA and NFPA 70E compliance standards. The requirements for an Arc Flash study were met by Matrix, and included field verification and audit, software modeling and design, short-circuit analysis, protective device coordination, and Arc Flash analysis. The Arc Flash labels provided by Matrix Technologies defined the incident energy values for the proper level of personal protective equipment (PPE) the employees at Graymont wear.

OSHA and NFPA requirements were achieved as a result of this Arc Flash Assessment conducted for Graymont and coordinated by CIFT/Ohio MEP.

“Working with Ohio MEP was a seamless process. Ohio MEP did most of the heavy lifting on the project. They established excellent lines of communication throughout the project, frequent updates, and worked well with our contractors through completion. I highly recommend Ohio MEP as a valuable resource if you are looking to invest in your process or operation.” — Greg Jess, Maintenance & Kiln Operations Supervisor at Graymont

Manufacturing Resources

CIFT offers a variety of manufacturing services from lean implementation to DOD support. For a complete list of our manufacturing services, please visit our manufacturing webpage.

industry 4.0

What is Industry 4.0?

Are you confused about what Industry 4.0 is? Many people are because it seems to be so similar to Industry 3.0, or the 3rd Industrial Revolution, an era that just recently ended. So what’s the difference?

Here’s the simplest way to put it:

Industry 4.0 is in fact the practices of Industry 3.0, but with an added use of smart technology which produces connectivity. So, devices communicate with each other and are able to even make decisions.

So what’s that mean?
You’re familiar with Industry 3.0 practices. These are the traditional manufacturing practices like Lean, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Automation, just to name a few. Now let’s add in the element of smart technology, or smart manufacturing. The entire production is connected and every single part, machine and employee are working in sync. Efficiencies are automatically captured and implemented. Inventory is always recorded which reduces waste. Because every machine or device is connected, real-time data is given which allows for data-based decision making on when to order materials, when to ship, when to reschedule a product and more. All this information makes it clear what the health of your organization is at any given moment. Information that is critical to the life and success of your company.

Endless possibilities with Industry 4.0

The potential and possibilities that come from implementing an Industry 4.0 production really are endless. If you free up workers in certain areas, they are then able to focus on new initiatives. If you reduce waste, you have new capital to use on new technology. Efficiencies open up the ability to expand and grow. And, let’s face it, you’ll have new leverage when it comes to recruiting new employees that want to be a part of smart technology.

If you’re interested in learning more about Industry 4.0, you can read more of our manufacturing blogs or visit our manufacturing services page.

Get to know our manufacturing team! Read about our Industrial 4.0 Project Manager, Joseph Schultz and our Business Development Specialist, Cathy Witte.

Rebecca Singer

Getting to Know Rebecca Singer, President & CEO

We believe it’s important to know who you’re working with.

This is a special edition of our Getting to Know CIFT blog series because we are highlighting our President and CEO, Rebecca Singer! Rebecca has always been a strong advocate for CIFT and began her journey with the company in 2001. She initially started with CIFT as the Associate Program Director, then climbed up the chain to Vice President and Director of Agricultural Programs and now is leading the company as President and CEO. We asked her some questions to get a glimpse into her role and what makes her so passionate about the work that CIFT does.

What do you do at CIFT?
I provide vision and strategic consideration as to how CIFT can continue to serve as a resource to our clients and stake holders while also exploring trends and anticipating future challenges. I have the pleasure of leading a team of exceptional individuals with unique skills and experience in directly engaging with companies within the food, agricultural, and manufacturing industries.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?
I have always been a firm believer in spending time doing something that makes a difference and you are passionate about. Food is an industry that touches every person several times a day while supporting good health, social engagements, to family connectivity. Playing a role in delivering a basic need with such powerful implications is particularly rewarding. Enhancing the way in which this is done from field to package is inspiring.

What has been your favorite project so far?
I have been fortunate to participate in and deliver on numerous projects during my tenure with the organization. It is incredibly difficult to select a favorite when you consider the impacts associated with assisting companies develop safer, higher quality products, implementation of a technology that allows for no preservatives added for enhance market appeal, explore improvements to water quality issues, manufacturer items fulfilling immediate crisis response during the pandemic, or educating youth of the importance of contributing to a vibrant food system into the future. In saying all of this, working with the entrepreneurs with a recipe that has been passed down for generations to advancing it into the marketplace is refreshing and inspiring. The passion and dedication of all the individuals we work with, regardless of the type of company, makes each positive impact a highlight.

What’s one thing you want people to know about your role, service or CIFT?
If you are within the food and agricultural industry, you will find genuine and valuable support from our team and if you manufacture a product in northwest Ohio your success is important to us and we are here to serve as trusted advisors willing to help.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I have been fortunate to travel to numerous countries to expand my knowledge and experiences professionally and encourage such exposure to anyone. Additionally, I spend my free time working on the family farm, volunteering for organizations such as 4-H, and find time spent on the water most relaxing and refreshing.

Get to know more of the team through the entire CIFT Team blog series.