Fast Facts: 

LITTLE ROCK — The Cooperative Extension Service’s Local, Regional and Safe Foods Team will be hosting two no-cost webinars as part of a Lunchtime Learning Series in October to assist a growing number of small food businesses.  

As consumers increasingly seek locally sourced foods, U.S. local food sales, including cottage-food sales, have grown from $5 billion in 2008 to a projected $20 billion in 2019, according to former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

The first of the webinars, scheduled for this Friday, Oct. 16, will focus on starting a small food business in Arkansas, specifically those businesses centered on “cottage food.” The session will be co-hosted with Bryan Mader, assistant professor of nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and will feature Jeff Jackson, environmental supervisor for the Arkansas Department of Health. 

The Oct. 16 webinar is primarily intended for small scale, home-based food businesses, farmers’ market managers and county extension agents. Visit uaex.edu/cottage-food-webinarto register.

The second webinar is scheduled for the following Friday, Oct. 23, and will focus on food safety documentation and COVID-19 preparedness for small food manufacturers, featuring Cornell University’s Abby Snyder, an assistant professor with Cornell’s food science department. This session is intended for small scale commercial food businesses, shared-use kitchen managers and food protection regulators. Visit www.uaex.edu/food-safety-webinar to register.

Both webinars are scheduled to stream live from noon-1 p.m., CDT. There is no cost to participate. 

Angela Gardner, program associate with the Local, Regional and Safe Foods Team, said the webinar series is designed to support Arkansans who want to launch a food business within the state.  

“Our team understands that a vibrant community food system relies on a foundation of diverse and informed food businesses,” Gardner said. “Local, state and federal regulations on food production can be daunting and complex. These webinars are an opportunity to unpack these regulations by learning and connecting with food safety scientists and regulatory professionals.” 

Anyone interested in the subject but unable to join the webinars during their initial streaming can visit uaex.edu/localfoods and find additional resources and ongoing support for farm and food businesses. 

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