N.C. Cooperative Extension, Madison County Center Secures Funding to Build a State-of-the-Art Commercial Kitchen

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The N.C. Cooperative Extension Madison County Center [Extension], whose mission is to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of the residents of Madison County, is delighted to announce that it has been awarded funding to establish a cutting-edge commercial kitchen. The Madison Commercial Kitchen is in addition to, and different from, the existing Madison Value Added Kitchen as it will allow for production of meat-based products, catering services, and will serve as a commissary for food trucks.

Extension secured funding from Golden LEAF as well as Dogwood Health Trust to fulfill its vision of creating the Madison Commercial Kitchen to support local food entrepreneurs and become a hub for culinary innovation, economic development, and community growth.

This exciting initiative aims to provide a fully equipped, state-of-the-art commercial kitchen that will be available for rent to food entrepreneurs, farmers, and food trucks. The Madison Commercial Kitchen will foster a supportive environment for culinary creativity and entrepreneurship, enabling individuals to scale up their operations without the burden of high startup costs.

“We are thrilled to have received this generous funding, which will allow us to bring our vision of a commercial kitchen to life,” said Elizabeth Ayers, County Extension Director. “This facility will serve as a catalyst for economic growth in Madison County, offering a space for culinary professionals and agriculture entrepreneurs  to thrive and contribute to the vibrant local food scene and to help sustain the family farm.”

Key features of the commercial kitchen include:

  • State-of-the-art cooking and baking equipment

  • Flexible scheduling for users

  • Training and educational programs

Local food entrepreneurs interested in utilizing the Madison Commercial Kitchen are encouraged to stay tuned for updates on the facility launch and application process.

History of the Madison Value Added Kitchen and the Madison Commercial Kitchen:

In 2006, Extension partnered with two innovative farmers, Dewain Mackey and Aubrey Raper, to create the first Food Hub partnership of its kind in N.C. A not-for-profit organization called Madison Family Farms was established and became a pioneer in consolidated farm packaging and marketing of local food products.

Initially, Madison Family Farms focused entirely on providing locally produced food to the public schools. Soon it became clear the schools needed the local produce processed (pre-washed and sliced) prior to delivery. Thus was born the Madison Value Added Kitchen, funded by the GoldenLEAF foundation and supported by Extension.

“It did not take long for this facility to become a coveted space for many farmers and food entrepreneurs looking for a place to process their food products in a rapidly growing local food market,” said Ross Young, former County Extension Director.

The Madison Value Added Kitchen successfully serves food entrepreneurs who’s safety requirements are regulated by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. However, the Value Added Kitchen does not allow for production of meat products, catering services, or as a food truck commissary.

After receiving ongoing requests for a commercial kitchen to accommodate caterers, food truck operators and other food entrepreneurs, the plans for a new commercial kitchen were born. “For the past 5 years, Extension has been working to make this dream a reality. It is very exciting to see the Madison Commercial Kitchen receive the funding it needs to move forward,” said Ross Young.