Center for Rural Affairs Launches Helpline for Rural Food Businesses in Northeast Nebraska

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Sandra Renner, Center for Rural Affairs Project Specialist,, Phone: (402) 320-3444
Or Center for Rural Affairs (402) 687-2100

Lyons, NE - The Center for Rural Affairs has launched the Rural Food Business Growth Helpline to provide rural food growers and food businesses with a supportive place to get assistance with their food business.

The helpline is part of the Rural Food Business Growth project. Launched last November, with the help of a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, the Rural Food Business Growth project is providing technical assistance and resources, along with the helpline for rural food growers and food businesses to contact for assistance. This project focuses on five counties in Northeast Nebraska: Burt, Cuming, Stanton, Thurston and Wayne.
Using the helpline is easy and simple. People can call or email Sandra Renner, Project Specialist at the Center for Rural Affairs, at 402.320.3444 or to start the conversation.
According to Renner, many people have already benefited from the helpline.

  • A baker of artisan breads from Wayne, Neb., wishing to locate convection ovens to lessen time prepping for farmers’ markets instead of spending several days at home using a standard oven. We helped her connect to two commercial kitchen spaces for rent near her.
  • A home gardener from Stanton, Neb., wishing to find a licensed kitchen to process produce to make jams and jellies for farmers’ markets and direct sales instead of using her home kitchen. We gave her a tour of a nearby commercial kitchen and let her know how she could rent it.
  • An outreach associate of a religious organization in Winnebago, Neb., working on food access in a food desert. They want to convert a church kitchen into a licensed kitchen. This kitchen will be used by community gardeners who need space to process and prepare food items for farmers’ market sales, direct sales and retail sales. We invited their team to join a nearby safe food handling course for farmers’ market vendors, and connected them to a state licensing inspector and to a consultant who provided suggestions for their kitchen. They were then connected with a mentor business and potential funding resources.
  • A farmer from Lyons, Neb., already selling excess produce to a nearby school seeking support and resources for getting their business online utilizing social media.

Since the inception of the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Food Business Growth project many trainings and workshops have been conducted.
Over 25 individuals and businesses involved in vegetable, fruit and small livestock production have received training and resources with regulatory, food safety, and licensing and labeling experts. And tours of licensed kitchen spaces available for rent have been conducted.
The project worked with the Macy Garden to Market program to provide safe food handling resources to 17 vendors. A state inspector provided information on state compliance, safe food handling practices, and licensing for vendors and kitchens.
Additionally the project has connected food hubs, food distributions and local food procurement specialists to learn how to better connect farmers to them, and how to better connect then with schools.
An online toolkit designed to help food and farm businesses connect and learn about relevant resources will be launched this fall. For more information and to join in on building a hub for local foods in northeast Nebraska, visit:  Stay up to date by liking Northeast Nebraska Local Food Group on Facebook.