MANSFIELD – Richland County has a booming micro-farm movement, and the Idea Works Entrepreneurs’ Kitchen actively supports it. The movement is comprised of farmers who dedicate themselves to bringing their fresh, nutritious produce to the local market; this is not just their passion - it’s their business.
And that’s where things become difficult. It’s been a tough year for many farmers who rely on the income they earn from selling their food. If they can’t sell it all, they quickly make decisions to donate their food if they can. Sometimes the food has to be composted and their hard work goes to waste. They need a place to wash, weigh and package their food year-round; especially during a pandemic.
For four years, Idea Works Entrepreneurs’ Kitchen has been around to help serve a community of food providers.
“We believe that the best lives begin with sharing food,” said Annamarie Fernyak, founder. “As entrepreneurs search for their way to create, develop and share their talent and passion for food, the Entrepreneurs’ Kitchen is the perfect way to incubate business growth and engage food enthusiasts.”
The kitchen started in July 2016 as a commercial and event space for Mansfield area food businesses. It has grown into a shared-use kitchen with over 20 members ranging from farmers to caterers and those looking to spruce up their own recipes in a kitchen that provides them all of the necessary materials to be successful.
Becoming a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Kitchen grants 24/7 access to a complete shared-use kitchen with commercial appliances, storage space and a serving area. It is designed to suit catering, baking and other food entrepreneurial needs. There is also parking space available for food truck members.
In an effort to help reduce the strain local farmers face, Idea Works made an investment of over $100,000 to help the micro farmers get a solid start when they formed their business, Richland Gro-Op. By providing them free, unlimited access to the kitchen, they have a fully licensed facility to collect, sort and pack their produce for distribution.
“We wanted to support our local farmers by offering the resources they need to grow their businesses and ways to preserve their unsold produce for additional revenue,” said Korinna Goettel, executive director of Idea Works Entrepreneurs' Kitchen.
The Idea Works board has never stopped its mission to support local food entrepreneurs. They are always looking for new opportunities to collaborate with other area businesses to help with the long term goal of building a vibrant, thriving food campus. This year, they are raising funds to purchase a $20,000 blast freezer for the Entrepreneurs’ Kitchen so kitchen members including Gro-Op farmers can easily preserve produce and meals for resale.
“During these times, it’s important to be mindful and work with each other in order to have a meaningful impact,” said Jay Allred, Idea Works board member.
“Let's remember that we're all stumbling through something none of us has ever experienced,” Allred said. “We're gonna need to hold each other up now and then.”
During Richland Gives, you can donate here to Idea Works Entrepreneurs' Kitchen and help them meet their goals.