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Community commercial kitchen opens Sept. 1 in Culpeper

After eight years of planning and fundraising, a community commercial kitchen project, Carver Food Enterprise Center (CFEC), will open Sept. 1. The space offers users a ten-burner stove and oven, prep tables, ample cold and dry storage, and an extensive equipment library. The kitchen will be available to small food businesses, farmers, producers, community partners, and local folks looking for some room to create. It serves the Rappahannock-Rapidan region, a five-county region of Culpeper, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, and Fauquier.

In its first space, CFEC will allow 24/7 access to users and support for those navigating regulations to bring their products to market. The Center also plans to open a bakery-focused
kitchen in the next few months and will install a large prep, co-packing, and storage space by the end of 2024.

“Our primary goal is to help increase the availability of local food,” said program director Gretchen Ledmor. “We know space and equipment is a huge hurdle for small producers looking
to grow and create. Our intent is to step into that gap, and provide the resources needed to help make more local food available.”

Located in Rapidan,  in the old George Washington Carver Regional High School, CFEC provides services in three categories: economic development, increasing food security, and job training. Beyond providing access to commercial kitchen space, essential for most food businesses, the Center will soon provide technical assistance and co-packing services to farmers who want to expand into value-added production.

CFEC will also provide a space for community building activities. The Feeding 500 Program held at CFEC will transform hard-to-use produce donations into meals for local food pantries
with volunteer support. The first Feeding 500 event will be on Nov. 5, when Fauquier Education Farm will donate 175lbs of sweet potatoes to be made into 500 portions of soup.

CFEC will also host food preservation courses, the first of which will be a venison preservation class aimed at helping hunters safely preserve their harvests using research-based methods.

The Stone Soup Job Skills Training Program which provides certifications for those looking to secure employment in food service will also now be hosted at CFEC. Graduates of that
program will have opportunities to work with CFEC co-packing services and with CFEC businesses in the future.

CFEC is a George Washington Carver Agriculture Research Center (GWCARC) project, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. More information can be found at the website:

Upcoming events include 9/28 at 5:30 PM, Open House for Donors and Partners, Sept. 28, at 5:30 p..m., Venison Preservation Class on Sept. 29, from 1 to 5 p..m. and Stone Soup Job Skills Training Program (Wednesdays) Oct. 4-Nov. 8, 10 a.m. to noon .

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