Kentucky State University introduced the nation’s first Fruit and Vegetable Mobile Processing Unit on May 14 at the Franklin County Farmers Market in Frankfort, Ky.

Joined by Frankfort Mayor William May, KSU’s President Raymond M. Burse; Dr. Teferi Tsegaye, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems; and the college’s research and extension staff unveiled the new unit in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The mobile processing unit is a certified mobile commercial kitchen that will enable farmers to process their fresh fruit and vegetables into value-added products such as jams, jellies, pickles, salsa, and frozen bagged fruits and vegetables to be sold in local grocery stores and gift shops. It includes two sorghum evaporators for processing syrup and the capability to blast-freeze products.

It is the only mobile processing unit of its kind in the United States. It offers processing levels that are higher than that of a home-based processor, which means it will offer farmers a way to process and sell their goods at venues larger than the local farmers markets. No goods will be sold from the unit itself.

“The KSU Fruit and Vegetable Mobile Processing Unit will help small farmers around Kentucky offer new value-added products to consumers and support Kentucky Proud efforts,” said Dr. Kirk Pomper, a horticulturist and associate research director in the College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems, who helped obtain the funding for the new unit.

A number of recipes for value-added items have been pre-developed to help small farmers develop new products. Enhancing services to under-served limited-resource farmers, who are often not reached by traditional cooperative extension approaches, in the safe commercial processing of fruits and vegetables will significantly increase economic opportunities for these individuals. Limited-resource farmers in Kentucky will add value to their crops by supporting the development of products that can be marketed in restaurants, grocery stores and gift shops.

The Fruit and Vegetable Mobile Processing Unit is funded in part by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund. It will be available to farmers in summer 2015.