Onondaga Biz Wiz

Dish to Pass

Follow these steps to become your own small-scale food processor

By: Karen Livingston, SBDC Business Advisor

July is full of picnics and local ingredients for that new recipe you want to try out. It also brings fresh veggies, fruit and long summer days hanging outside at the barbeque in the backyard where everyone hopes you will bring that signature dish to pass. Perhaps your signature dish is based on a family recipe passed down from generation to generation, or a special spice blend that only you know about.

Suddenly, you have realized the potential for this magnificent creation. Why not share it with the world and make a profit from it? Where does one start? You have many options, but the simplest option is to start small. You can become a home-based food processor, also known as a “small-scale” food processor.

Like anything in life, start by getting your toes wet and testing the market. Don’t get overwhelmed by jumping in over your head. You can be a small-scale food processor from the comfort of your own home with minimal financial commitment. See how the market responds to your product before taking too much risk in starting your new venture.

You may think “How the heck do I do that?”

You can start by gaining an understanding of how foods are regulated and which require a processing license in New York. Will you need a home kitchen or commercial kitchen for your production? New York State Agriculture and Markets provides a well-defined list of food products spelling out what can and cannot be produced at home, as well as how and where products can be sold and sanitation requirements. Take a look at the publication that New York State Agriculture and Markets maintains on its website.

Cornell University put a great guide out for becoming a small-scale food processor. You can check out a well-organized chart that lays out the minimum food processing facility requirements for New York State stating procedure, licensing, inspections agency, foods allowed and not allowed and zoning all for the at home kitchen, home annex kitchen and the commercial kitchen. Take a look at number 28 on the “guide to farming in NY” chart.

But wait, don’t overlook the fact that you must contact the municipal planning office to determine if food production is even allowed under the current zoning in which you live if you were to decide to utilize the home kitchen aspect of production.

You have tested the waters, now you are a raving success, selling out left and right. Now what? It’s time to leave your home kitchen. The SBDC published a business planning guide for 
food products, titled A Recipe For Success: Selling Food Products. Take a look at NYS SBDC to download the full guide. In addition to the guide, there’s always an adviser just a phone call away to assist you in creating a business to help pass that dish.

For More Information:

Call 498-6070

Visit onondagasbdc.org to schedule an appointment

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