Saturday, February 19, 2011

Matthew Roybal to be Processing Center manager

Matthew Roybal will be the first manager for The Piedmont Food & Agricultural Processing Center. The center located in Hillsborough is scheduled to open for business in April 2011.

Roybal, a resident of Hillsborough is a natural foods and culinary consultant. He was introduced to the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 15. Orange County is fiscal agent for and acting on behalf of Alamance, Chatham, and Durham Counties, the partner counties in this effort. Bernadette Pelissier, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, welcomed Roybal and noted the importance of this project in developing the local food system and supporting local agricultural enterprises. The Orange County Economic Development Department has been working with Cooperative Extension staff in all four counties, together providing leadership and critical staff support while developing this multi-county project.

Roybal brings important skills to the food center, including experience in small scale farming, specialty food product development, natural foods marketing, and food processing facility management. He was a former ServSafe trainer and is currently ServSafe certified which enables him to ensure clients of the center follow food safety practices.

While working for a national retail grocer, Roybal developed recipes for their food commissary and managed their gift basket program through an online store. These skills are important to the entire project which seeks to serve as a food business incubator for local entrepreneurs and farmers. More recently, Roybal was a consultant to the establishment of a local artisan culinary production facility. In addition to his food entrepreneurship skills, Roybal also worked on his family’s small farm in Kankakee, Illinois. He was involved in all aspects of farm operation, from seed selection to harvest to marketing.

Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs, longtime advocate for the value-added shared-use commercial kitchen and horticultural processing facility, spoke to Roybal just before the Tuesday night meeting. “We are glad to have you working on this project,” Jacobs told Roybal.

The $1.4 million dollar project has been funded by competitive grants from the Tobacco Trust Fund, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the US Housing & Urban Development – Economic Development Initiative program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant, the USDA / NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Program managed by RAFI-USA.

At the formal groundbreaking for the center last fall, US Representative David Price and NC Representative Dan Ingle both noted the positive aspects of supporting local food entrepreneurs and adding value to local farm products.

Dr. Fletcher Barber, Agriculture Program Specialist with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and former Orange County Extension Director, added that the project has been steadily progressing over the past 5 years. “From feasibility study to design and construction, we are almost there,” Barber said.

Roybal is ready to get to get started. “I look forward to working more closely with the regional community of farmers and food artisans,” Roybal noted. “The future of food is local,” he added.

For more information on the Piedmont Food & Agricultural Processing Center visit and click on ‘processing center.'

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