Contact Us

Grant McCarty
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
University of Illinois Extension
Highland Community College, Bldg R
2998 W Pearl City Rd
Freeport, IL 61032
Phone: 815-986-4357
FAX: 815-232-9006

Food Enterprise Center

Food Enterprise Center

Pretzel City Kitchens is a planned commercial kitchen in Freeport, Illinois designed to grow the regional food economy. The Pretzel City Kitchens will support the expanded production of local food crops and value-added products by:

·         Providing an affordable, certified commercial kitchen with a wide variety of equipment

·         Offering business development resources, education, and networking

·         Potentially offering co-packing services

·         Offering a space to showcase and sell local food products

To move this project forward, we need your help. If you have a potential interest in using this facility, we want to hear from you! Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey.

We’re seeking all types of potential users – farmers, current food businesses, people considering starting a business, organizations seeking kitchen space to make food products for fundraisers or for events, and more.

 Please also visit our website ( for more information.

See the Latest News Release on the Kitchen at link below:


kitchen incubator is a licensed and certified commercial kitchen facility that provides processing space and equipment for those looking to develop new products, expand production from home kitchen processing, or test market products before investing in their own equipment and space. It is a business incubator that specializes in emerging food ventures, assisting food based businesses during their start-up period.


The City of Freeport, University of Illinois-Extension, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and other regional stakeholders are working together to develop the Center. This project developed as a strategy to promote food entrepreneurship and support the expansion of regional specialty crop production in Northwest Illinois and the surrounding region.

An Advisory Team was formed to oversee the project. Team members include:

·         City of Freeport

·         University of Illinois Extension

·         Specialty Crop Farmers

·         Stephenson County Health Department

·         Blackhawk Hills Regional Council

·         Highland Community College

·         CareerTec

·         Freeport School District

·         Farm Credit Services

·         Blackhawk Hills RC&D

·         Stephenson County Farm Bureau

·         Food Entrepreneurs

·         Third Ward Neighborhood Residents

The project team is investigating affordable space options in downtown. The project team first came together through a collaboration to investigate uses for vacant space at the Rawleigh Complex and will consider Rawleigh as a potential expansion location in the future.


In 2009 the Project Team received a USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant to complete a Market Analysis and a Business Plan for the Center that were completed in 2012 and currently are guiding implementation. The Market Analysis demonstrated a significant need for the Center including the following key findings:

·         Strong producer interest in the proposed Center services

·         Highlighted the current and potential growth of specialty crops and value-added products

·         Producer interest in new and expanded market opportunities

·         Strong consumer and community stakeholder support

·         Natural fit for Downtown Freeport



The Center will provide:

·         Use of a fully equipped, shared-use commercial kitchen for users, to be rented out on an hourly basis

·         Availability of storage space, office space, and educational space depending on user demand

·         Turnkey services to help businesses move from recipes and ideas to production and sales

In the future, the Center could expand to include a retail outlet to provide fresh, local foods for over 5,000 neighborhood members that currently live in a “food desert,” having no other grocer in a 1-mile radius.  The Center could also expand to include a Northwest Illinois Food Hub that would connect producers with institutional markets, by providing aggregation and distribution services necessary for scaling-up local food.


Would you be interested in using the Food Enterprise Center facilities or just want to learn more about the project? Please contact Grant McCarty, University of Illinois Extension, to learn more: 815-235-4125,