News Release
Release No.STELPRD4012403
ContactDavid Glasgow615-783-1300
Merrigan met with rural entrepreneurs in Wilson County who are working to bridge the gap between the farm and dinner table and generate extra income in the process.
LEBANON, Tenn., Jul 06, 2011 --

@@Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today highlighted rural job creation and met with a rural entrepreneurs in Wilson County who are working to bridge the gap between the farm and dinner table and generate extra income in the process. During the meeting, Merrigan highlighted a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant of $90,000 for the Cumberland Culinary Center (CCC) to purchase additional equipment to expand the range and scale of services they provide.

"A healthy American economy starts right here with a prosperous local economy," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan during a meeting with local entrepreneurs who partnered with Cumberland University to create the CCC for farmers and small businesses. "USDA supports Cumberland University's outreach because this kitchen incubator helps capture and keep wealth in the community while increasing consumer understanding of the value of local foods."

The CCC helps farmers and food entrepreneurs overcome significant market obstacles by relieving them of the typical startā€up costs associated with constructing a fully licensed commercial kitchen to prepare new products. The kitchen provides the space to create and showcase local products, helping them to become more sustainable and profitable.

With today's announcement, USDA Rural Development (RD) has provided grants totaling $233,340 to establish and grow the CCC.

"This kitchen incubator is a driver of economic activity, nutrition education, and small business development," said RD State Director Bobby Goode. "Small businesses are the economic engines of rural communities, creating jobs and helping maintain a healthy, diversified local economy."

"USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative is a bridge between producers and consumers that encourages healthy eating by promoting local and regional food systems," said Merrigan. "As I talk with growers across the country, I'm hearing they need infrastructure, logistical and market support. The kind of support this Center provides for people in the Upper Cumberland."

Partners in the CCC also include the State Department of Agriculture, through its Pick Tennessee Products program that is celebrating 25 years of connecting farmers to consumers.

Rural Development business programs help local governments and non-profit organizations improve local business infrastructure and promote job growth. Business loans provide needed financing for rural businesses and loan-guarantees are also available to help private lenders to increase the pool of investment capital available for business start-up, modernization and expansion in eligible rural areas. The Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program provides grants for rural projects that finance and facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses to help fund distance learning networks, and help fund employment related adult education programs. To assist with business development, RBEGs may fund a broad array of activities.

USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, businesses, community infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. Last year Rural Development assisted more than 1.5 million rural Tennessee families and businesses with more than $1.06 billion in financial assistance through affordable loans, loan-guarantees and grants.

For more information on Rural Development programs contact the Rural Development Area Office in Nashville at 615-783-1359, toll free at 1-800-342-3149 ext. 1359 or visit us online at


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).