Born and raised in New England I can’t claim to know the finer details and intricacies of the delicious and competitive world of barbeque. So when I came to Tennessee to highlight economic development opportunities at Cumberland University’s Cumberland Culinary Center I was pleased to see first-hand just how intense that competition can be and how that competition is fueling small business opportunities and growth in rural Tennessee.
The Cumberland Culinary Center is a community kitchen and small business incubator that has received support from USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program. The center is a great example of the opportunities that exist when we brings together federal, state and local resources. The center is designed to meet the growing needs of farmers, agri-entrepreneurs and other businesses by helping them overcome the financial obstacles and start-up costs of constructing a commercial kitchen.
One such entrepreneur is Ron Reed, owner and expert at Ron Reed’s Signature Barbeque Sauce Company. Ron was one of six small businesses, and four barbeque sauce companies utilizing the facility to cook and prepare his signature sauce. Ron uses the kitchen on a quarterly basis and pays a rental fee that grants him access to equipment that would otherwise cost him tens of thousands of dollars and prevent him from pursuing his dream.
The importance of these programs for developing and strengthening rural economies is clearly stated in Ron’s own words:
”USDA’s commitment to the future of rural communities truly does impact folks like me. I have always had a passion for cooking and an entrepreneurial spirit. The support that the USDA has provided to the Cumberland Culinary Center has given me the opportunity to take my passion and turn it into a growing business, that one day will assist with adding jobs to our local community.”
Now this is where the competition started to heat up. The Center is also home to another three barbeque entrepreneurs – R&R Condiments, producer of OL’ SOUTH Fine Swine Bar-B-Que Sauce, BBQ Fight Club sauces, and Smokey’s Gourmet Products, producer of Smokey Cornwall’s BBQ Sauce.
Not wanting to get caught in the middle of what clearly involves a lot of time, hard work, and culinary creativity, I will leave judgment on this battle to the more seasoned barbeque connoisseurs.
If you have a small business or a dream that you want to pursue, I encourage you to follow in Ron’s footsteps and reach out to your local USDA Rural Development office.