The Tampa Bay Cottage Industry Expo, coming to Wiregrass Ranch High School in July, aims to help people who want to launch a new enterprise, or expand an existing business.
The expo, which is intended to become an annual event, will focus on the finer aspects of marketing and regulations of value-added products that are associated with growing fruits and veggies — either conventionally or through hydroponic production.
The expo also will detail requirements for production and marketing of animal products for sale, such as milk and eggs.
Experts from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences, as well as cottage industry entrepreneurs, will share their experiences and knowledge to help people who are interested in establishing or expanding a cottage industry.
Whitney C. Elmore, Pasco County extension director, came up with the idea for the conference after seeing similar types of events and meetings being held around Florida.
“It also really comes out of a need from the community,” said Elmore, who also is a horticulture agent. She said her office receives lots of inquiries from people who want to start businesses and don’t know where to begin.
“There’s a lot of detail there, with regulation, safety factors, rules and what not, and just helping them market. We want to be able to follow them from set-up to all of the way through,” said Elmore, who is working with extension staffers from Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to present the event.
“We get calls a lot about hydroponics, about vegetable and fruit production,” Elmore said.
People will call about the newest thing, and they’ll want to pursue it, she said.
The goal is to provide information to those attending so they can begin new businesses or immediately improve their existing operations.
The sessions will cover agriculture production, legal and regulatory considerations, and marketing in topic areas, including fruit and vegetables, livestock and hydro/aquaponics.
The expo also will include a trade show area for participants to learn more about products and services that are available to their business.
There also will be vendors who will be exhibiting different types of products or tools that people in cottage industries might find helpful in starting their business or taking it to the next level, Elmore said.
The expo also will focus on safety, which is especially important for products being produced as food sources.
“There are liability issues. People could end up losing everything, if they don’t do this right at the start. We want to mitigate any of those unfortunate realities that can spring up,” Elmore said.
The event is at Wiregrass Ranch High, at 2909 Mansfield Blvd., in Wesley Chapel, because of its convenient location, Elmore said. The school is near Interstate 75 and State Road 56, offering good access for people coming to the expo from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
The July 30 event will be indoors, in the school’s gymnasium, cafeteria and some classrooms. Registration will be at 8:30 a.m., and the event will conclude at 3:30 p.m.
Dr. Soo Ahn, the keynote speaker, will kick off the event at 9 a.m. She’s an extension specialist in food safety and entrepreneurship.
Food trucks will sell lunch and snacks throughout the day.
About 150 people are expected to attend, Elmore said.
Organizers are still looking for vendors and exhibitors, as well as sponsorships at various levels.
Anyone interested in taking part can contact either Elmore, or Stephen Gran, from Hillsborough County Extension.
Published June 29, 2016