Anna Dawson is on a mission to help communities of local food growers and cooks create their own healthy convenience foods (frozen & vacuum packaged) at community Harvest Kitchens.  Here cooks work together to preserve the excess harvest to facilitate locavore creativity and whole food enjoyment throughout the year.

Anna is challenging the farm-to-table-sustainable-agriculture-graduate-blogger-tweeter to take their passion to the next level. She’s recruiting those bright-eyed creatives looking to make their mark to join us in building the next logical step in community resilience and sustainable food design: a harvest kitchen 50 miles in every direction! Now is the time to birth a community food processing network that includes canning and the production of frozen quick SLOW food products – food that’s quick to prepare, yet respects SLOW food values.

The problem(s):
Farm marketers often fail to sell all the food they bring to the market. In fact, the NY Times caught on to the GLUT of farmers markets and how they are cannibalizing each other’s audiences. Farmers’ options are to give the food away, feed it to farm animals or compost it.  Few small-scale farmers and market gardeners, busy caring for crops, harvesting, distributing and selling their products, have the time, energy and certified kitchen to preserve their crops. There are simply not enough affordable spaces for small scale food processing.

Furthermore, many successful CSA farms provide great shares of food to members, who at the end of the week can’t use all of their share and end up letting it spoil – which typically leads to their backing out of membership in the future.

Most culinary incubator kitchens focus on producing canned, acidified fruit and vegetable products (pickles, jam, chutneys), dried and baked products. Few vacuum packaged (cryovaced) frozen fruits, vegetable or convenience products are seen in grocery stores or at farm markets.  Cryovacing food is actually the process of removing air and sealing frozen veggies, fruit purees, soups, meats, cooked beans and whole grains in plastic bags. The food’s extended life using this process is different than bag freezing without vacuum sealing. This food quality enhancing process is just not being used creatively…

Thousands of pounds of food should be purchased from farmers to increase their income from the “excess,” unsold foods rescued and re-redirected to be “put-up” year round as components for future, healthy, frozen and vacuum packaged meal components when added to commercial kitchen repertoires.  Time starved consumers would welcome the ease of preparation, the high quality and reduced waste of frozen  ”quick, slow foods” made from local products that are easy to access via internet ordering and group delivery to community sites such as schools or churches. gets it!

The solution: Harvest Kitchen Network + Instruction
A small scale Harvest Kitchen focused on freezing and vacuum packaging would combine local dairy products, meats, whole grain products, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices into convenience products for families and small group feeding situations.

Bi-weekly internet or phone ordering and group delivery can make these products reasonably priced and provide a new market for small and mid-scale farmers for excess or unsold product.  These Harvest Kitchens, managed by culinary entrepreneurs familiar with local whole food options, are to be located within economical distance from each other to give the Network of farmers and citizen consumers cheaper access to a Kitchen.

The products are to be whole foods-based, minimally processed, nutritionally analyzed and designed to prevent food related diseases (NOTE: not “illnesses” but “diseases”).  Foods can be purchasd from farmers committed to nutrient dense farming.  Efficiently frozen fruits and vegetables from regional distributors can also be used – thus adding to the market for larger farms.  By creating a network and expanding the model, it becomes cost-effective for producers and market sellers to provide nutrition and cooking education to Harvest Kitchen product consumers through websites and community group presentations.

We know people are waiting for someone like Anna to facilitate the formation of Harvest Kitchens in their 20C Ag. & Mkts.-approved facilities. Anna’s lifetime knowledge of farming, twelve years of food processing experience and her 26 years experience cooking and teaching home economics brings a special depth and skill to the Harvest Kitchen potential. Whether you want to form a community cooperative or a private harvest kitchen business, Anna will help with kitchen design and equipment selection, recipe development, supply acquisition, nutritional analysis and flexible, low cost packaging. She will provide an internet education and internship experience for future Harvest Kitchen managers. You do the rest to bring together the farmers and exisiting local food businesses to build a viable local food system that provides jobs and healthy food for all involved.

Written on November 18th, 2011 , Must See

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