Sunderland’s Kitchen Garden gets funding for sauce factory

The Recorder, July 16, 2018, by Richie Davis

Can’t stand the heat? Don’t stay out of the kitchen — start your own.

With sriracha and salsa sales heating up for The Kitchen Garden Farm, partners Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox plan on starting a new commercial kitchen.

Work is expected “to start any minute” on the 30-by-72-foot commercial kitchen on the farm’s Sunderland property, replacing a barn and also the Kitchen Garden’s use of the Greenfield Food Processing Center for its line of three sriracha sauces and two salsas.

In addition to getting a loan Friday, Kitchen Garden got word Monday of a $142,876 grant from the state Department of Food and Agricultural Resources, one of three community food ventures to be funded.

The loan will pay for food processing equipment for preparing and bottling sriracha chili sauce, habanero sriracha and ghost pepper sriracha as well as tomatillo and roasted chili salsas.

Pam estimated construction should take about four months and that equipment will be installed by the end of the year.

Last year, the partners processed 19,000 pounds of hot peppers, Pam said, and this summer, she expects to process 10,000 pounds of tomatoes and tomatillos.

But because the Kitchen Garden is dealing with a tight processing schedule that coincides with when other farms are preparing their crops at the Franklin Community Development Corp.’s Greenfield commercial kitchen, “We need to have a dedicated kitchen, because we always sell out before we have a new crop.”

The farm, which started in 2006 on an acre and is now growing on 55 acres — 30 of which are rented on 11 parcels — began making 5 gallons of its version of Southeast Asian sriracha sauce in 2013. Production jumped 10-fold to 4,000 jars in 2014. Output quadrupled to 16,000 jars in 2015 and doubled again to 32,000 jars in 2016.

Last year, she said, production schedules at the CDC kitchen limited production growth to 34,000 jars. The farm has to book dates in January, and it’s hard to know exactly when peppers and other ingredients will be ripe.

Right now, Pam said, value-added products account for one-quarter of the farm’s total revenue. Her hope is to increase that to one half, in part by adding new products.

In addition to having more control over the production schedule, Pam said, “I’m excited about having a dedicated kitchen crew” instead of calling in farm workers to the kitchen to work alongside Food Processing Center employees.

Kitchen Garden’s naturally fermented sriracha, which won the 2017 Good Food Award from the Good Food Foundation, is sold at Green Fields Market, River Valley Market, Whole Foods as well as California’s Bi-Rite Markets, Organic Markets on Cape Cod and Whole Foods in the Boston area.

The products are also available on the Kitchen Garden Website.

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