Play
Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center Helps Entrepreneurs Launch Food Products

December 2, 2022

As any entrepreneur will tell you, a helping hand is always appreciated when starting out.  Located in the warehouse of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, where they have been known to provide that helping hand to local food producers over the past 20 years.  Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan visited the center in Greenfield and brings us the story. Learn how a passio

As any entrepreneur will tell you, a helping hand is always appreciated when starting out.  Located in the warehouse of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Cen

As any entrepreneur will tell you, a helping hand is always appreciated when starting out.  Located in the warehouse of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, where they have been known to provide that helping hand to local food producers over the past 20 years.  Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan visited the center in Greenfield and brings us the story. Learn how a passio

As any entrepreneur will tell you, a helping hand is always appreciated when starting out.  

Located in the warehouse of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, where they have been known to provide that helping hand to local food producers over the past 20 years.  

Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan visited the center in Greenfield and brings us the story. 

Learn how a passion for local farming led to a career at the FCCDC in a digital exclusive interview. 

Read the full transcription:

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: As the sun tries to make its way up over 324 Well Street in Greenfield, within the confines of this old warehouse building, there's already a crew hard at work.

This is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, an operation of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. And while on the surface it may appear to be just a micro-assembly line, there is a much bigger purpose being addressed, in particular for local farmers and budding entrepreneurs looking to get their product out to market, but needing the production capabilities to do so.

Kate Minifie, FCCDC: Food entrepreneurs often come to us with an idea and they don't really understand how they're going to actually make it happen. So, the manufacturing end of things can be a little confusing for people. So, we like to invite them into the kitchen to see the space, to understand the equipment that we're working with, and start to think about scalability of the product, right?

So, we're not going to be making a product in a five gallon stockpot on our kitchen stovetop forever. Eventually, we're going to want to scale up and make a few thousand units at a time, 10,000 units at a time.

So, we try to sort of demystify some of that, like, what is food manufacturing, what's involved, and what does scalability look like for a small business?

Brian Sullivan: When we dropped in, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, as the order for the day was onions -- lots of them.

But each day often presents a new product and thanks to some in-depth training and preparation, the team is always up to the task.

Kate Minifie: Monday, we might be making a hot fudge; Tuesday, we might be making a pickled onion product; and Wednesday, we might be making a pesto. It's different every single day, and we support entrepreneurs all the way from Connecticut to northern Maine to New York City, and then we have some folks right here from Greenfield as well.

Brian Sullivan: So, who exactly is this well-oiled machine processing all of this food?

The FCCDC hires through a temp agency, and in the case of the kitchen here, through the local sheriff's department. Upon release from incarceration, they're brought on as temps looking to get a second chance.

And judging by the rate of retention, it seems to be working.

Kate Minifie: Well, we spend a lot of time cultivating a really good team. And so, at this point, we've had six crew members who've been with us for a couple of years. So, they're invested, they're passionate about the products that they're making. They're really excited to support the entrepreneurs that we come to know and love over years of working with them.

And then, we just have an awesome leadership team here. So, our Director of Operations, Liz Buxton, does a great job sort of cultivating that -- that culture in which people feel comfortable coming forward with issues and feel comfortable presenting new solutions for doing something differently and doing something better.

Brian Sullivan: While the food processing center may get the lion's share of the attention, because while they've been here for over 20 years, one detail that shouldn't be overlooked about this operation is that this place has been a hub for entrepreneurs of all stripes.

The folks at Catalyst Kombucha are a perfect example. They've been using this space here for several years to manufacture their product.

Shannon Martineau, FCCDC: We are a lot of things. We are a small business incubator space. And so, what you see from the road when you drive in is our venture center and our food processing center.

So, we have businesses who get started with us by renting space and they are able to rent at a lower cost. And so, then they're able to grow and eventually move out and get facilities of their own.

Brian Sullivan: Chances are, if there's a local business in Franklin County and some of the surrounding areas that started small and needed financing along the way, they came through the FCCDC. The annual budget here is $2.7 million, and they've got their sights set on a target of $400,000 in donations this year in order to keep it up and running.

Shannon Martineau: We have a lot of balls in play here when it comes to finances. We have a few key financing streams, donations, you know, being one of them. We have income from our food processing center, income from our tenants, and then we rely on grants. And grants through the federal government and state government.

And so, all those pieces play together so that we can comfortably know, you know, that our operations are strong, and we'll be here for many years to come.

As any entrepreneur will tell you, a helping hand is always appreciated when starting out.  Located in the warehouse of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (FCCDC) is the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center, where they have been known to provide that helping hand to local food producers over the past 20 years.  Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan visited the center in Greenfield and brings us the story. Learn how a passio

Play
FULL EPISODE: December 1, 2022

December 1, 2022

Sit in the audience for a lively show from renowned children’s musician and puppeteer Tom Knight.Then, learn how Estoy Aquí addresses mental health inequities in Black and Latino community through a social justice lens.And, visit the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Franklin County, where they help entrepreneurs bring value-added food products to market.Finally, sitarist, composer, and teacher Veena Chandra and her son, tabla playe

Sit in the audience for a lively show from renowned children’s musician and puppeteer Tom Knight.Then, learn how Estoy Aquí addresses mental health inequities in Black and Latino community through a social justice lens.And, visit

Sit in the audience for a lively show from renowned children’s musician and puppeteer Tom Knight.Then, learn how Estoy Aquí addresses mental health inequities in Black and Latino community through a social justice lens.And, visit the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Franklin County, where they help entrepreneurs bring value-added food products to market.Finally, sitarist, composer, and teacher Veena Chandra and her son, tabla playe

Sit in the audience for a lively show from renowned children’s musician and puppeteer Tom Knight.

Then, learn how Estoy Aquí addresses mental health inequities in Black and Latino community through a social justice lens.

And, visit the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Franklin County, where they help entrepreneurs bring value-added food products to market.

Finally, sitarist, composer, and teacher Veena Chandra and her son, tabla player Devesh Chandra, give us a lesson in Hindustani classical music.

Sit in the audience for a lively show from renowned children’s musician and puppeteer Tom Knight.Then, learn how Estoy Aquí addresses mental health inequities in Black and Latino community through a social justice lens.And, visit the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Franklin County, where they help entrepreneurs bring value-added food products to market.Finally, sitarist, composer, and teacher Veena Chandra and her son, tabla playe

Play
Estoy Aquí Responder Program Addresses Mental Health Inequities

December 1, 2022

After experiencing first-hand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC. Estoy Aquí addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to organizations serving Latino and Black communities.  This fall, Estoy Aquí partnered with medical students on a responder program entitled, La Cultura Sana, or The Culture Cures, which focuses on suicide and mental health th

After experiencing first-hand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC. Estoy Aquí addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to orga

After experiencing first-hand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC. Estoy Aquí addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to organizations serving Latino and Black communities.  This fall, Estoy Aquí partnered with medical students on a responder program entitled, La Cultura Sana, or The Culture Cures, which focuses on suicide and mental health th

After experiencing first-hand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC. Estoy Aquí addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to organizations serving Latino and Black communities.  

This fall, Estoy Aquí partnered with medical students on a responder program entitled, La Cultura Sana, or The Culture Cures, which focuses on suicide and mental health through a social justice lens. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Garcia and some students to learn more about the program. 

Read the full transcription:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: After experiencing firsthand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC, which addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to organizations serving Latino and Black communities.

And this fall, Estoy Aquí partnered with medical students for a responder program entitled La Cultura Sana or the Culture Cures. I spoke with Garcia and some students to learn more about the program.

Ysabel Garcia, Estoy Aquí: So basically, we know that health, as we know, physical, mental, spiritual health, is not only created or shaped by medical symptoms, there are things in our environment that shape our health as well.

And so, things like housing, things like income, things like...even the zip code where we live, the structure of the neighborhoods where we live, all of those things in a combination -- a combination of those things affect our mental health. How we behave, the choices we make, our actions, etc.

Zydalis Bauer: And so, I know that Estoy Aquí has done a lot of work in Black and Latino/Latinx communities around mental health. And so, it was important for you to create this program to be very community-centric.

What are you seeing happening in these communities and why is a program like this necessary to be implemented in these communities around this area?

Ysabel Garcia: Estoy Aquí, first of all, which is a professional development training service. I do workshops, trainings, panels, webinars, seminars, all about connecting the dots between mental health, suicide, and social justice.

And so, part of Estoy Aquí is La Cultura Sana, which means the Culture Cures. And that is where I offer peer support training to what I call cultural responders. And cultural responders are service workers, like barbers, hairdressers, librarians, people that are in the community that are providing some form of mental health support but that are not traditionally seen that way because they are not social workers or psychologists or psychiatrists.

And so I thought, well, the very first question is, where are these cultural responders? And that is where Sarah and Michela, who are part of the perch track, that's where they come in.

And so, they were able to answer that question by creating an entire directory based on Western Mass, but specifically also Springfield.

Zydalis Bauer: And so, part of the design of this program included having some pop ups at key locations. And I know Ysabel, you mentioned some of those cultural responders being at, you know, salons, laundromats, bodegas.

And so, I know that during the two weeks you all visited there, what was it like connecting with the community and being hands on? What was their response to the students and to you all?

Michela Oster, Student: I...it was an amazing experience. I have goosebumps.

And I remember a particular interaction was with a man who owns a small corner store in Springfield. And out of the blue we decided to go in, we saw a lot of people coming in and out, and we realized that not a lot of people were buying things. It was a place where people were talking in Spanish. It was really the essence of what La Cultura Sana means, really the essence of cultural responders.

So, we started talking to the store owner and he just said, "It's part of my job, like, listening to people, hearing their stories even when they don't buy things. It's part of my job. And I think that if I wasn't here, I don't know who would do it."

And yeah, it was it was a very emotional experience.

Sarah Lee, Student: Another really amazing opportunity that we got was to sit in on a training that Ysabel was having with the Springfield Public Library. And its first, like, it's a place where everyone and anyone, no matter what, how much money you have, you can go there. That's a free resource and such a powerful resource.

And I think Ysabel, you know, basically...that was such a awesome place to recognize as a culture responder, because people don't often think of libraries as a place to get care, you know, to get mental health care. But actually, librarians do a lot of supporting with people and just, like, helping them along their way, whether it's, like, helping them with job applications or giving them a space to sit or giving them these free computers that they can use to do whatever they need to do.

And so, it was really great meeting librarians and doing the tough work of like, okay, how do you balance, you know, the really busy work you have as a librarian, but also, you know, extending a hand and being that support you can be for people who may rely on the libraries?

And so, that was also a really amazing experience.

Zydalis Bauer: No, it's also fascinating because these are people that we encounter every single day and you really kind of take for granted the impact that they have on individuals. So, it's really, really cool to see this strategy of giving them that training to be a cultural responder for mental health in the community.

Ysabel, you found that as Estoy Aquí and I know that you are a survivor of the psychiatric health system, and that's part of the reason why you founded this program. You're also a first-generation Dominican immigrant. And so, you know the experience in these communities dealing with mental health.

When it comes to mental health, what would you like for others to know and understand, especially when we're speaking about Black and brown communities?

Ysabel Garcia: Fourteen years ago, 14 years ago, I moved to Springfield. Springfield, directly to Springfield. Springfield is my second home, basically.

Two weeks or three weeks after moving to Springfield, Massachusetts, I actually run away to Mercy Hospital, and that's when my hospitalization in the psychiatric system started. It became a cycle of hospitalizations.

And during those hospitalizations and during my interactions with social workers and therapists and psychiatrists, I received a lot of violent responses, such as solitary confinement, micro-aggressions, physical restraints, just because I said that I wanted to die.

However, one thing that I noticed throughout my time in the psychiatric system and the health system is that access is not enough. And when I say this, people are like, "What do you mean?" Because in public health, access is everything. They love to talk about, “We need more access to therapists, we need more access to hospitals." But my thing is, what about looking beyond access.

And so, Estoy Aquí and La Cultura Sana is basically saying, instead of just focusing on access and also on what's wrong with the community, the so-called gaps, let's look at what is working, because we do have a lot of strengths. That is where the cultural responders come in. So, we are not filling in the gaps. We are increasing strengths.

Something that is also part of La Cultura Sana is not just the peer support training, the cultural responder training, but also tabling. Tabling or pop-ups are central, because that's where we really meet the community with our app and we start to ask questions and be curious. "Hey, how do you feel about mental health care?" Right? Like what -- what is that like? And we actually give out pamphlets that has information about how to talk about suicide, for instance.

And I will -- I will love if Michela and Sarah talked a little bit about their tabling experience during the two weeks.

Sarah Lee: We tabled in front of a social justice organization, and that was actually one of our first experiences being out in the community. And it was an eye opening experience, something I learned a lot from.

And a theme that kept coming up when we talk to people, is that they don't feel -- a lot of people don't feel safe talking about their mental health anywhere in Springfield. And that was really a big statement to say, like, you don't feel safe anywhere in the city to talk about. And it really made us reflect about how important Ysabel's mission is, to kind of enhance those community strengths so that people can feel comfortable talking about their mental health to, you know, someone, like if they're getting a haircut, if they're going to the library, if they're going to the grocery store.

Anywhere they're going, we should all feel really comfortable talking about our mental health and -- and seeking support from each other.

 

After experiencing first-hand some of the inequities that exist within the psychiatric system, Ysabel Garcia founded Estoy Aquí LLC. Estoy Aquí addresses suicide and mental health by offering culturally responsive training to organizations serving Latino and Black communities.  This fall, Estoy Aquí partnered with medical students on a responder program entitled, La Cultura Sana, or The Culture Cures, which focuses on suicide and mental health th

Play
A Passion for Farming Leads to a Career at the FCCDC (Digital Exclusive)

December 1, 2022

In a digital extra, the food entrepreneurship program manager discusses how her passion for local farming led to her career at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. Explore how the FCCDC provides support to value-added food producers in our full feature on the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. Read the full transcript:Kate Minifie, FCCDC: Well, I was always super interested in food systems and local food. Grew up work

In a digital extra, the food entrepreneurship program manager discusses how her passion for local farming led to her career at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. Explore how the FCCDC provides support to value-

In a digital extra, the food entrepreneurship program manager discusses how her passion for local farming led to her career at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. Explore how the FCCDC provides support to value-added food producers in our full feature on the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. Read the full transcript:Kate Minifie, FCCDC: Well, I was always super interested in food systems and local food. Grew up work

In a digital extra, the food entrepreneurship program manager discusses how her passion for local farming led to her career at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. 

Explore how the FCCDC provides support to value-added food producers in our full feature on the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. 

Read the full transcript:

Kate Minifie, FCCDC: Well, I was always super interested in food systems and local food. Grew up working on local farms in Hatfield, grew up picking tobacco and asparagus and you name it. So, was always interested in that world and wanting to get back to it.

Went to school, studied public health, and was really interested in nutrition and community health education, and so went to the farm-to-school route for a little while in southern Vermont. And then came back and really wanted to help strengthen the local food system here.

And food processing, food manufacturing is this, like, often forgotten part of the local food system that is so important for local farms. We need to add value to produce in order for farmers to get a good profit margin for their products.

And so, that's why I came here, to support farms in seeing out those dreams.

In a digital extra, the food entrepreneurship program manager discusses how her passion for local farming led to her career at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. Explore how the FCCDC provides support to value-added food producers in our full feature on the Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center. Read the full transcript:Kate Minifie, FCCDC: Well, I was always super interested in food systems and local food. Grew up work

Play
Tom Knight on Making YouTube Videos (Digital Exclusive)

December 1, 2022

Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a star...or at least they can reach a larger audience. In this digital exclusive, puppeteer Tom Knight shares what it was like teaching himself to edit videos to post on YouTube. Learn more about Tom in our full feature on the children's puppeteer and musician.  Read the full transcript:Tom Knight, Musician and Puppeteer: ♫ What's over there? It's the garbage monster. ♫I first got into video with the orig

Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a star...or at least they can reach a larger audience. In this digital exclusive, puppeteer Tom Knight shares what it was like teaching himself to edit videos to post on YouTube. Learn mor

Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a star...or at least they can reach a larger audience. In this digital exclusive, puppeteer Tom Knight shares what it was like teaching himself to edit videos to post on YouTube. Learn more about Tom in our full feature on the children's puppeteer and musician.  Read the full transcript:Tom Knight, Musician and Puppeteer: ♫ What's over there? It's the garbage monster. ♫I first got into video with the orig

Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a star...or at least they can reach a larger audience. 

In this digital exclusive, puppeteer Tom Knight shares what it was like teaching himself to edit videos to post on YouTube. 

Learn more about Tom in our full feature on the children's puppeteer and musician.  

Read the full transcript:

Tom Knight, Musician and Puppeteer: ♫ What's over there? It's the garbage monster. ♫

I first got into video with the original video of "The Garbage Monster" in 2008, and I had hired a production company to make a video. And I thought, you know, I think maybe I could edit this myself. So, they said, "Sure, go ahead, try."

And so, I bought some editing software and I got the footage and I started editing and it took a really long time, but I really learned a lot about editing and I really enjoyed it. So, my yeah, my first intro was really just editing my own material, my -- my own song.

♫ Ooh, rockabilly goat ...♫

You know, when I'm performing a show, I might have 100 people or 200 people or 20 people, or whatever. You know, there's a limited number of people that can see me live, but if I can get something up on YouTube, then there's no limits. It can go all around the world.

♫ Well, Mama Alligator...♫

I'm excited about just being able to share my music with the whole world, that anybody can have access to it, and to try to create the best version of that that I can, that's really fun.

♫ Alligators jump, alligators fly...♫

Thanks to the internet, anyone can become a star...or at least they can reach a larger audience. In this digital exclusive, puppeteer Tom Knight shares what it was like teaching himself to edit videos to post on YouTube. Learn more about Tom in our full feature on the children's puppeteer and musician.  Read the full transcript:Tom Knight, Musician and Puppeteer: ♫ What's over there? It's the garbage monster. ♫I first got into video with the orig

previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow
Slider

Digital Exclusives

 
 
The State We're In Logo

Community

 

Music & Performance

 

Like Connecting Point on Facebook!

Follow Us on Instagram!

Connecting Point is a
NEPM logo white local production

WHEN TO WATCH

Thursdays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm (repeat)