Did you know that there is a rum distillery in Georgia? Or that pecan oil from South Georgia can rival the taste of olive oil in cooking?
When you think of food processors, the first thing that comes to your mind may be Kraft or Nabisco. But think outside the box (literally) and imagine a small smokehouse in Sandy Springs where Diana Fitzgerald smokes Norwegian salmon and Blue Ridge trout, or a Shared Kitchen space where Sona Sukumaran cans Indian-inspired chutneys.
Thanks to programs like “The Flavor of Georgia” food product contest, these local entrepreneurs have the opportunity to get their products in front of food brokers and retailers. The annual contest, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. It has drawn 35 finalists in 12 product categories, ranging from jams and jellies to snacks.
“The idea started because we worked with a lot of Georgians interested in food processing,” said Dr. Kent Wolfe, Director of UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. “They were always asking for our help to get their product out to stores, so this became a way to connect them with valuable resources.”
Most of the products in the contest are sold at specialty stores such as Whole Foods Market and some are even used by Atlanta’s top restaurants such as Restaurant Eugene and Miller Union. Previous winners surveyed by the directors have noticed an increase in revenue for their businesses.
So how about this- if given the opportunity, would you quit your job in marketing and move to a farm in Elberton, Georgia to produce cheese?
That’s what Tim Young, farmer and cheesemaker of Nature’s Harmony Farm did in 2007. “I knew nothing about farming or cheesemaking,” he said. “I can’t describe how different cheeses taste, but I fell into a new life of milking cows twice a day and making cheese.”
He says cheesemaking sounds more interesting than it actually is. But life just got a little better, as Young is the overall winner of the contest. He wins a plaque presented by Governor Nathan Deal, a membership in Georgia Grown and of course bragging rights. After he won the award, his first stop was distributing a wheel of cheese to Star Provisions.