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Ag incubator helps entrepreneurs grow

"This is so yummy you ought to sell it" has warmed many a home cook's heart. And for more than 10 years, Ohioans with recipes and dreams have been using the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green to launch their businesses.

NOCK was established by the Agricultural Incubator Foundation as a place where regional residents can access a professional-grade facility. A catering kitchen opened first, followed by a cannery in 2005 and blanching/freezing space in 2010. Many jars of barbecue sauce, boxes of chocolates and so on have rolled out of NOCK's doors over the years.

Early "graduates" have been so successful their products were sold at major retailers and at numerous regional markets. Today, 27 entrepreneurs are renting the NOCK resources for production, says manager Paula Ray.

Requirements include a deposit fee, insurance, a business plan and approval of the Agricultural Incubator Foundation board of trustees. Once approved, tenants must sign a lease, participate in an orientation and training program and agree to schedule their time.

The non-profit Foundation was formed by a group of Ohio farmers, people involved in agribusiness, educators and researchers to nurture "the development, advancement and appreciation of agricultural systems in Northwest Ohio that are economically, ecologically and socially sustainable," it states on its website.

Besides NOCK, the Foundation makes available meeting space, organic farmland, greenhouses, and a fish farm. Bowling Green State University, the Ohio State University Extension, and the Toledo-based Center for Innovative Food Technology are among Foundation supporters.

Source: Paula Ray, Agricultural Incubator Foundation/NOCK
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs
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