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Washington State University

Minimally Processed Produce for Regional Food System Resilience

Goals of this Work

The intent of this feasibility study was to evaluate the economic viability of a food processing facility for vegetables and fruit grown in South Puget Sound, and Western Washington more generally. (Send inquires to

This program processes raw produce into easier-to-utilize forms; for example, cubed potatoes and carrot coins are popular products and are offered fresh and frozen. Lack of community-scale processing, not only locally but nationally, has contributed to what has been described as “the missing middle”[1]. The “missing middle” is the lack of community-scale processing facilities capable of supporting agricultural production and serving regional markets. The cause has been national consolidation in packing plants, and the result limited ability even of highly motivated institutional buyers and others to purchase local or regionally produced food.


Facility Concept

This facility would focus on minimally processed vegetable and fruit products available both raw and frozen. “Minimal processing” refers to processes that improve convenience for the end-user without altering the fundamental nature and nutritional value of the product, including peeling, slicing, cutting, dicing, and chopping. This feasibility assessment focused on non-chilled products, but is intended to be augmented with capacity to blanch and chill to produce frozen minimally processed vegetables and fruit.

Intent of this Information

This information is intended to inform development of a processing effort in South Puget Sound/Southwest WA. More generally, it may be helpful to other communities interested in establishing community processing facilities.

Information and resources compiled in this report includes:
  1. Local market data for value-added processed products, including to direct and institutional buyers (actual markets assessed are in South Puget Sound)
  2. Inventory, capacity, and cost estimates of common equipment used in a processing facility
  3. Planning tools for evaluating crop seasonality, processing times, and processing costs
  4. Enterprise and profit-loss budgeting tools for a processing kitchen focused on minimally processed vegetables
  5. Information on facility layout from existing facilities, and preliminary design for a facility for minimally processed vegetables
  6. Insights from visits to existing processing facilities
South Sound Food Processing Facility Feasibility Study Final Report – Exploring Community Processing Capacity
  • Read the final report 2018-2019 including market assessment data, interview tools, basic facility designs, enterprise budget
    results, and case study summaries. ProcessingStudyFinal_20.01.31
  • Case Study from tour of grain, fruit, vegetable, and other farm product processing facilities in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, WA: Skagit Tour 2018_Notes.
  • Case Study of Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center: Western Mass Case Study
  • Community Harvest Food Bank and Processing Facility, Fort Wayne, IN: Community Harvest Case Study.
Value-Add Food Processing Facility Market Analysis
  • Journal of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents publication: MARKET ASSESSMENT FOR VALUE-ADDED FROZEN VEGETABLE AND
  • Draft 2018-19 Final Report: Feasibility of a Value-Added Processing Facility for Minimally Processed Vegetables and Fruit in South Puget Sound.  Final Report_20.1.27
  • Presentation at 2018 Tilth Conference of preliminary results of the south Puget Sound including hospital, school district, correctional facility and state cafeteria food service directors, and Community Support Agriculture (vegetable box subscription) customers at three Thurston County farms. Tilth Value-Add Processing_Final
  • 2018 value-added processing facility market analysis. Three markets were surveyed: customers at the Olympia Farmers Market, Institutional Buyers in
  • Draft 2018 Annual Report: Market Assessment for Value-added Fruit and Vegetable Products for CSA box-subscription programs, sale at farmers’ markets, and sales to institutional buyers:
  • Facility design and planning will occur in 2018 – do you have ideas for equipment funding or skills with processing kitchen finances? Call us! 360-790-9308!
Rapid Market Assessment at the Olympia Farmers Market

  • “How important is it to you that locally processed products use local farm products?” This question and six others were answered by over 500 market shoppers on August 11th, 2018. The goal of this market assessment was to evaluate customer interest in value-added fruit and vegetables products. Results from this work will help determine the feasibility of developing a value-added food processing facility in south Puget Sound. Here are initial results presented to the South Sound Food System Network in September 2018: FoodProc FacilityUpdate SSFSN 18-09-04.
  • Read on here for an informal thought piece on the potential of a food processing facility: Could food system infrastructure like a food processing facility help reverse farmland loss? Thurston farmland & vegetable processing