The Missouri AgriBistro opened its doors during the 2015 Missouri State Fair and was an instant hit with its farm-to-table offerings. On Thursday, the Missouri State Fair Foundation received a grant to help even more local growers use the facility.
USDA Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning announced a $61,899 Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to the Missouri State Fair Foundation on Thursday, which will be used to purchase equipment and upgrades to the Bistro’s kitchen to turn it into a certified kitchen.
“What I’m really proud of is this money is going for something that is very near and dear to us and that’s the local original food movement and how we can make sure that we’re bringing good food, we’re helping the small farmers, that we’re helping bring food that’s healthy and nutritious to our families and to our children, and what better place than the State Fair that sees the thousands and thousands and thousands of people coming through to set that example,” Dunning told those gathered in the Bistro.
According to a USDA news release, the RBDG program is a grant designed to support technical assistance, training and other activities to help develop or expand small emerging businesses in rural areas.
Turning the kitchen into a certified kitchen will benefit local farmers who will now be able to utilize a commercial kitchen year-round.
“Our whole purpose is to turn the kitchen into a commercial kitchen, a certified kitchen, that local producers from Pettis County and all around can come in here and add value to their product. It can extend their growing season,” said Christi Miller, of the Department of Agriculture. “Right now their cucumbers, for instance, might be coming out their ears, well they can come in here and turn those into pickles. They can bring their tomatoes that aren’t going to sell at the farmer’s market and turn them into salsa.
“To make this in their own home is difficult and costly to set up that kind of kitchen to produce food, to add value, but if we can have one here they can all use, that helps everybody, helps the whole farm community in the area. I think that’s something Sedalia has been lacking is a certified kitchen that the people can use and that’s what we were thinking.
“It’s two-fold: it’s a way to use this building all year-round instead of just these 11 days and it’s also a way to help them, to give them a place to come in and use to add value to their product. That’s what we do at the department, that’s what we do at Ag Business Development — how can we help farmers and producers and ranchers add value to their products and this is just another component.”
Miller explained that she will be working with the Sedalia Area Farmers’ Market to get farmers in the space and help with scheduling.
According to a news release, in addition to the upgrades, the space will also be available to community groups to rent for functions, caterings and educational opportunities and will be made available for State Fair Community College and the local extension office to use for cooking classes or food safety courses.
“There’s no telling what will be processed and what will be added value to back there,” Miller said. “I’m excited to see what will come.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.