UACES Facebook Cooperative Extension Service’s kitchen incubator initiative, Share Grounds, providing introductory workshops
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Cooperative Extension Service’s kitchen incubator initiative, Share Grounds, providing introductory workshops

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
Oct. 23, 2019

Fast Facts:

  • Fairground kitchens are being renovated and will be open to would-be food entrepreneurs and producers in early 2020.
  • Introductory workshops planned for Oct. 24 (Rison), Nov. 18 (Marshall), 19 (McCrory) and Dec. 7 (Little Rock) 

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RISON, Ark. — The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extensions Service will host the first of three introductory workshops for Share Grounds, a kitchen incubator initiative, on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Rison.

Share Grounds is intended to provide certified kitchen space, distribution centers and technical assistance to help caterers, farmers, educators, food truck businesses and other would-be entrepreneurs launch successful food-based businesses. The program will launch in three areas in Arkansas, using existing facilities at county fairgrounds in Cleveland, Searcy and Woodruff counties.

The program is designed to help emerging entrepreneurs navigate the “hoops” of food and farm business development, said Dr. Amanda Philyaw Perez, assistant professor and food systems and safety extension specialist for the Division of Agriculture. 

“I hope we can help rural communities lift up their local economies with good food grown or made in Arkansas,” Philyaw Perez said.

Three introductory workshops are planned for 6-8 p.m. at the three pilot sites on the following dates and locations for food entrepreneurs to learn more about the program: 

• Oct. 24 - Cleveland County Fairgrounds, 309 Mockingbird Lane, Rison
• Nov. 18 - Three County Fairgrounds,416 Old Highway 64B, McCrory
• Nov. 19 - Searcy County Fairgrounds, 105 Armory St., Marshall 

An all-day client training will be held Dec. 7 at the Cooperative Extension Service state office. Potential clients can register by contacting Julia Fryer,   

Share Grounds is a partnership between the Cleveland, Searcy and Three County Fair Associations, the Division of Agriculture, and several regional partners. 

Angela Gardner, program associate in produce safety and local foods with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, said the fairgrounds are a logical site choice because they have available kitchen facilities, many of which are underused. The kitchens have all been renovated and are awaiting clients. 

“It would be an advantage for potential clients to participate at this stage since they will help guide us on what types of kitchen equipment to purchase,” Gardner said. 

The kitchens will each be open 20 hours per week for now. Each site will have a part-time manager who will assist with recipe testing, product development, regulatory assistance (paperwork), kitchen rental, cold and dry storage rental. Clients would then pay an hourly rate to use kitchens and equipment. 

The aggregations centers will be especially useful for fruit and vegetable producers looking for space to wash, package and store their produce until a buyer can pick it up for distribution. 

“Buyers had rather go to one central place than multiple farms,” she said. “That is the link between rural and urban.”

The Share Grounds concept is modeled after the Arkansas Food Innovations Center, which is part of the Food Science Department within the Division of Agriculture. 

For more information, contact Gardner at (501) 671-2180 or

For more information about Share Grounds,

To learn about community and economic development in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow the Cooperative Extension Service 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.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.  If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your (insert appropriate office) as soon as possible.  Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.  

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Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
Communication Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2120