It was a productive season for many New England famers and for CommonWealth Kitchen as well. The bountiful harvests provided a new way for CommonWealth Kitchen to support the New England Food Vision. This year, CommonWealth Kitchen, a non-profit shared kitchen and food business incubator, embarked on a series of new projects to support local farmers and strengthen our role as a Boston food innovation hub.
CommonWealth Kitchen’s mission is to promote small business, create jobs, and support the regional food economy. To fulfill our mission, we operate a shared kitchen, provide technical assistance to our start-up food businesses, and offer a range of contract manufacturing services to our members as well as farmers and local restaurants. On any given day, the kitchen is constantly bustling with our 45 businesses: the bakers, juicers, salsa-makers, chocolatiers, and food trucks preparing food for catering orders, local shops, eaters on the streets and at farmer's markets.
We provide a range of contract manufacturing services that aggregate labor and support production and growth for local manufacturers, restaurants, farmers, and our small food businesses. By bringing all of these larger-scale projects under one roof, we're able to support more full-time jobs, and create efficiencies in the process through a knowledgeable staff and large-scale equipment. We currently do contract manufacturing with many of the producers at the Boston Public Market, as well as many of our own small food businesses. This summer, with the yearly bumper crops of local produce, we saw an opportunity to expand our contract manufacturing to local farmers. Two recent projects highlight how we were able to connect different parts of the New England food system:
- Higher Ground Farm is an open-air farm located on the roof of the Boston Design Center in Boston’s Seaport District. The owners had surplus basil at the end of the season and wanted to make space for other crops, so they turned to CommonWealth Kitchen. A Higher Ground-CommonWealth Kitchen team produced a line of custom pestos: light green fragrant lemon basil, a traditional purple opal basil, and a peppery thai basil. Working with CommonWealth Kitchen, Higher Ground Farm preserved their beautiful bumper crop of basil for sale as pesto at their farm stand.
- Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts and Verrill Farm in Concord, Massachusetts had a huge bumper crop of tomatoes destined for the compost. These farms, collaborating with the folks who started Stock Pot Malden, brought their tomatoes to CommonWealth Kitchen, where our kitchen team helped them develop the recipe and scheduled process of making custom heirloom tomato marinara. The 15,000 lbs tomatoes were processed by variety, peeled and seeded, custom-blended, frozen, and jarred for future sale on the farms.
With value-added processing, these two Massachusetts farmers have broadened their sales to include longer shelf lives and incremental sales margins. CommonWealth Kitchen was able to provide responsive, medium-scale contract production for local farmers, while continuing to build local food businesses, create jobs, and strengthen the regional food economy.
This growing food innovation hub offers a great new set of resources for farmers and food producers. This is but one way that CommonWealth Kitchen is supporting the New England Food Vision - 50 by 60.
Roz Freeman is the Community and Operations Manager at CommonWealth Kitchen. She manages the intake process, educational programs, local hiring, and has become the official caretaker for CWK's tiny garden out in front of the facility.