Commercial kitchen supporting local producers in Cranbrook

Jun 23, 2021 | Story

Cranbrook’s Farm Kitchen provides space and equipment for food-focused entrepreneurs

Farm Kitchen offers a large commercial kitchen “that is rentable by local entrepreneurs,” says Meredith Funston, Farm Kitchen’s Food Programs Coordinator. The space is intended for food producers “who are looking to move their business from the small scale that they started it out as, but don’t yet have the capital to invest in upgrading their kitchen or finding a space and installing a kitchen.”

Say you want to make artisan crackers. You might be able to make a certain number at home. But if you want to ramp up your production to sell at farmers’ markets or in grocery stores, your own kitchen and equipment most likely aren’t adequate.  In Cranbrook and surrounding communities, small food-focused entrepreneurs are turning to Farm Kitchen for the resources they need.

The Farm Kitchen is operated by the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC, which provides services that support individuals and families, including ones focused on food literacy and food recovery.

The society already had a small kitchen, but it was too small for their big ideas, so they turned to the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior (ETSI-BC).  ETSI-BC’s mandate to contribute to economic growth and diversity in BC’s Southern Interior, create employment and enhance business performance clearly aligns with the goals of the Farm Kitchen.  So, with a $25,000 grant from ETSI-BC the Farm Kitchen opened its doors to entrepreneurs and community groups.

A benefit for community groups

“We also operated workshops out of Farm Kitchen,” Funston says. Before the pandemic wound down in-person activities, people could “come on in and learn a bit about Instapot cooking, or batch cooking, or keto cooking. That was quote popular before COVID.”

Community groups can also rent the space regularly or for one-off events. For example, a children’s hockey league has used it to make a big dinner. “They were able to make massive vats of spaghetti and store it properly.” Larger operations like Cranbrook Food Recovery have used the space for years. rented the kitchen to create cooking videos for children during the pandemic. There have also been collaborations with organizations like College of the Rockies and Kootenay Employment Services.   Farm Kitchen also supports social services in the region, as any profits return to the Community Connections Society, Funston says, and “are rolled right back into programming.”

Produce local – shop local

As for entrepreneurs, 19 have used the kitchen since it opened. One baker “would travel from over 100 kilometres away every two weeks,” Funston says, to make products for farmers’ markets and stores. “The kitchen was a boon to her.”

When it comes to the overall economy, the kitchen is strengthening the local food industry by helping entrepreneurs achieve their aspirations.  Now, users can benefit from items like a 20quart mixer, a six-range gas burner, a convection oven, walk-in coolers and freezers, dry storage and a dish sanitizer. It’s the ideal location to develop, operate and grow a successful food-based business.

And with food produced right in the region, more of the money that people here spend on groceries stays close to home.

An upbeat outlook

In 2020, the pandemic impacted in-person workshops and farmers market sales resulting is reduced use of the Farm.  However, by spring 2021, things were looking better.   Plus, the kitchen is moving on to bigger and better things—or at least a brand new location. The Cranbrook Food Bank Society recently built a facility, which is also housing Cranbrook Food Recovery and Farm Kitchen. “We are essentially our own pod within this new building,” Funston says, yet the three groups will now share operating costs. Also, the food bank and recovery program can easily conduct activities in the kitchen — “which is exciting for them and exciting for us.”

Funston also looks forward to seeing how Farm Kitchen can work with the upcoming Kootenay Farms Food Hub in Creston. This facility will provide space and equipment to producers from across the region so they can create a wide variety of foods and drinks. “It’s an excellent opportunity to collaborate,” she says, and “optimize our efforts.”

As Funston says, “We provide that scaffolding that allows businesses to make use of our equipment, make use of our space and move their business to the next level.”