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The New Food Entrepreneur: Conference Brings Value-Added Processing Experts to Region

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Specialty and gourmet foods generate retail revenues of $30 billion annually in the United States. Northwest farmers will have a chance to tap into this growing market at an upcoming conference on value-added processing.

The New Food Entrepreneur Conference will be presented by Washington State University’s Small Farms Team on April 1 and 2 at Green River Community College in Auburn.

“This conference gives value-added farmers a chance to share their success stories,” said organizer Curtis Beus, director of WSU Extension in Clallam County. “We are going to learn from producers who are earning new profits by adding food businesses to their farms.”

The conference is targeted to producers of dairy, meat and poultry products, as well as fruits, vegetables, wine, cider, herbs and more.

“Producers in the Pacific Northwest are well-positioned to meet the growing demand for specialty and gourmet foods,” said Marcy Ostrom, director of WSU’s Small Farms Program. “We have a wide variety of climates, access to capital and technology, and a base of consumers that is eager to support local farmers by purchasing value-added farm products.”

For years, experts have been saying that farmers must diversify to stay competitive. Conference organizers say that is why they developed the event.

“The conference is really a ‘how-to’ on diversifying farm income,” Beus said. “It’s focused on tools and ideas that producers can begin applying immediately to see increased profits. They will also get a chance to network with chefs and food business entrepreneurs seeking local sources of farm products.”

Conference topics include:

  • Developing and promoting new products on a shoestring budget,
  • Meeting processing regulations,
  • Managing a new enterprise, and
  • Forming cooperatives and community kitchens.

Sessions are planned on wines, hard ciders and cheeses, raw milk sales, meat and poultry processing, and packaging and co-packing issues.

“I’ve captured more of the food dollar by learning how to package, process and promote my grass-finished beef,” said Joel Huesby of Thundering Hooves Family Farm in Walla Walla, one of the conference speakers. “I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with other producers.”

More information on the New Food Entrepreneur Conference is available at www.smallfarms.wsu.edu or by contacting Beus at (360) 417- 2280 or beusc@wsu.edu.

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