While The Cookery (see related story) focuses on food trucks and caterers, in Hillsborough the Piedmont Agricultural Food & Processing Facility will cater primarily to small farms that produce and market value-added products, such as jams, cheeses and baked goods.
The facility at 500 Valley Forge Road hosts an open house during the Piedmont Farm Tour April 16–17. It is scheduled to open in May.
At least 20 farmers and producers are signed up to use the facility. Whitted Bowers Farm of Orange County plans to produce dried fruit from their biodynamic crops, while the Bamboo Ladies out of Wake County will be slicing and packing their bamboo pickle product. Officials with the Inter-faith Food Shuttle said it will use the space for its Young Farmer Training Program "as a hands-on learning environment and future resource for apprentices as they launch their own food/ farm businesses."
The facility is larger than 10,000 square feet, with about half of it serving as kitchen space. The rest will be used as storage and training rooms. Alamance, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties signed an interlocal agreement to support the venture, which is also backed by $1.4 million in grants. That grant money expires in June 2015, but according to Noah Ranells, agricultural and economic development coordinator for Orange County, the facility wants to be an independent nonprofit organization by then.
In 2004, Orange County commissioned a study to research the interest in this type of business. The results showed a "strong indication" for local demand, enough that the facility could lease about 140 hours per month to clients. Basic hourly rates are $25.