UF Leads Trend to Open Food Businesses with Workshops

Dan Economy, Education, Industry News Release

Kimberly and George Vecchio wanted to reinvent their 20-acre farm near Vero Beach from mostly animals to produce so they could start a food business. Though George had been a gourmet chef for more than 20 years, they didn’t know how to start the new enterprise.


Fresh vegetables at the farmers market.
UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador

“We didn’t know what questions to ask, or even where to start, even though George has a passion for food,” Kimberly said. “We had already constructed a building to process food, and we knew we needed government approval, but we had so many questions. That’s when we turned to UF/IFAS Extension.”

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension faculty lead workshops across the state to give residents information on how to open and maintain a food business. National trends show an explosion in the cottage food industry, with many wanting to run businesses out of their homes.

The specialty food business grew more than 22 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to the Specialty Food Association. The two most likely characteristics of new products include gluten-free food (38 percent) and convenient/easy-to-prepare items (37 percent).

“People want to eat food they recognize with ingredients they can understand,” said Soo Ahn, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition who specializes in food safety and entrepreneurship. “Cottage food enterprises meet these needs and give consumers the ability to support small, local businesses.”

Ahn will lead two, 2-day workshops on food entrepreneurship. Both workshops cost $100 for one day only, and $150 for both days with early bird specials. Standard rates are $125 for one day only, $200 for both days.

  • May 21-22, Tampa Bay, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive, NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online at or click here.
  • June 25-26, Panhandle, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County, 3098 Airport Road, Crestview, FL 32539. Register online at or click here.

UF/IFAS St Lucie County Extension agents will lead a workshop Tuesdays from April 24 to May 29 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. called “Sprouting Healthy Businesses.” The workshop will teach participants how to grow vegetables and how to start a business, including planning, record keeping, time management, marketing and funding.

The cost is $35. The classes will be held at the Indian River State College Blackburn Center, 3002 Avenue D, Room 108, Fort Pierce, FL, 34947. To register, contact Carol Alberts at 772-462-1660 or

By Beverly James, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences