University of Maryland Extension

Value-added processing for urban farmers

Author: 
Ginger S. Myers, Extension Specialist, Marketing, University of Maryland Extension and Kim Rush Lynch, Extension Educator, University of Maryland Extension

Urban Ag home | Table of contents

For urban farmers whose production is limited by space or other constraints, value added processing provides a way to increase the profitability of harvest.

When deciding what product to produce and sell, research your target market and distribution outlets to determine demand, taking into account which foods and products are popular and/or desirable but difficult to find. You should also consider the cost of inputs, such as time, equipment, and raw materials, and select products that you can produce relatively inexpensively, so as to ensure a high enough profit margin and product viability. When considering starting up a home or commercial kitchen, it is important to research which agencies regulate licensing of the product, inspection of the facility, foods allowed and not allowed to be produced in each facility, local zoning laws governing the use of the building, and building codes.

Information on food processing regulations, training courses, and food safety updates are available on the Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center website: http://extension.umd.edu/mredc

For more information about value added processing and marketing in particular, see the University of Maryland Extension publication, “Processing for Profits: An Assessment Tool and Guide for Small-Scale On-Farm Food Processors,” by Ginger S. Myers, available for free download on the Extension website. See marketing resources link at the end of this chapter for details.

Advantage of producing value-added products:

  • Can be used to add value to produce that otherwise would sell for low prices (like cucumber) or might go bad quickly (like raspberries)
  • Producing shelf-stable products can enable sales in the winter to even out cash flows
  • Can provide an additional enterprise to employ more family members or employees

Disadvantages of producing value-added products:

  • Food safety and labeling regulations are more challenging than for fresh produce
  • Requires additional skills, equipment, and storage

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