The development of a kitchen incubator in Toronto, S.D., opens doors for entrepreneurs. 

Joan Sacrison, Deuel Area Development Inc. executive director, says using a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to develop a kitchen incubator has been beneficial to entrepreneurs in Deuel County. Through the grant they received in 2011, they completed a business incubator and a kitchen incubator by the end of 2013.

Using a kitchen incubator, entrepreneurs can use an already established commercial kitchen to prepare food items for the retail market. Using a professional kitchen like the one at the Deubrook school allows a food manufacturer to get started slowly and a more affordable way.

“The whole point of this incubator from the USDA is to grow business that we can start out with one or two and eventually to grow to four or five, maybe 10 or larger,” Sacrison says. “The whole point is starting small.”

She says small towns in South Dakota and around the region do not have the workforce to bring in a big manufacturer. By using a business incubator or a kitchen incubator, businesses can start off small with the hope of growing.

Sacrison says the relationship they have with the Deubrook School District has made the experience a good one. Entrepreneurs pay a one-time fee of $25 to defray administrative costs. Those using the kitchen need to buy their own ServeSafe license. The school charges the cooks $5 a day.

“We work with the kitchen staff at Deubrook so we know who’s using the kitchen then and they have been outstanding, the administration there working with us. His philosophy is this is taxpayers’ dollars anyway at the public school system so they might as well use it.”

The kitchen incubator’s first chefs were Kristianna Gehand-Siddens with Prairie Coteau Farm and Kim James with Foodtopia Farms. Gehand-Siddens uses the kitchen to make pesto from the garlic she grows on her farm near Astoria, S.D. James makes a jalapeno jelly. 

They have added two more since the beginning. Humble Pig Smokery out of Brandt, S.D., and Day of the Dead Salsa out of Brookings, S.D., use the kitchen to make their products.

Sacrison says other rural communities should apply for a USDA grant to bring business to their community and help small business owners get a start.

“If people are looking to help their community and their entrepreneurs to grow, this would be a great thing to go for for communities of any size. It’s so doable,” she says. “With so many schools consolidating and they’re just sitting there, they can definitely, if they have an active board, they should get something like this started.”

If a school is not available, she suggests looking at a restaurant in town or if a church is looking to remodel their kitchen, that could also be an option to get an incubator started. 

While Sacrison did not know anything about a kitchen incubator when she started this project, she says it has been a success and other communities should apply for the grant to stimulate economic growth.

“I think there’s some of them out there that just need a nudge but they have the desire. A community or group is going to have to help them pull this together because it has to be a nonprofit that goes after the grant,” Sacrison says. “I think we, as rural South Dakota, have to look at ways to continue our lifestyles that we know and help our communities progress and flourish. This is one way we can do it.

“We’re not going to get the big businesses to come in and build a plant. We can start with this. … I definitely feel little communities no matter what size can do something like this,” she says.