UACES Facebook Division of Agriculture to launch ‘Shared Grounds’ kitchen incubators at three Arkansas locations
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Division of Agriculture to launch ‘Shared Grounds’ kitchen incubators at three Arkansas locations

Dec. 14, 2018

By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • $650,000 USDA grant will help move fresh produce in Arkansas towns to local consumers
  • Kitchen Incubator Project will make use of fairground facilities that often go unused most of the year

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LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service is working to make locally grown food more available in several towns throughout the state.

Amanda Philyaw Perez, assistant professor and food systems and safety extension specialist for the Division of Agriculture, and local foods program associate Angela Gardner are using funds from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help develop the Rural Kitchen Incubator and Aggregator Center Development Project, which will be known as “Shared Grounds.”

The project, which represents an investment of more than $650,000, offers an innovative approach for rural communities, using existing facilities and infrastructure at several available county fairgrounds.

The project will establish kitchen incubator and aggregation centers at Searcy, Cleveland and Woodruff county fairgrounds, located at Marshall, Rison and McCrory, respectively.

The project has five goals, Gardner said. The first is to put the kitchens found at fairgrounds —which often have sizeable capacities but are unused much of the year — to work as aggregation centers for local produce, as well as distribution centers and places where value-added products can be developed, all with the intent of increasing access to local foods.

In pursuing this goal, the project administrators hope to best serve their other goals: to support local farms, to develop and expand opportunities for value-added food businesses, to foster the growth of regional food economies, and to improve access to food in underserved communities and institutions.

“In the beginning stage of this project, we’re working with the county agents and fairground site managers and organizing advisory committees for each of the sites,” Gardner said. “In the spring of 2019, we will conduct a regional market and community interest assessment, which will help us better serve the clients who will use the shared kitchen incubator sites. We hope to start site modifications and install equipment by late summer of 2019.”

By mid-2019, project administrators plan to advertise for, and hire, part-time site managers for each location, and plan to open the sites by 2020, Gardner said.

The project is part of a multi-state partnership, sponsored by the USDA, intended to investigate efforts aimed at food system development to look for opportunities to provide greater resources and technical assistance for those efforts, support regional planning and development and to foster local food and farm business development.

To learn about the Shared Grounds Kitchen Incubator Project, contact Gardner at

To learn more about farming in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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 Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126