Starting a Food Business in Pennsylvania

Ever considered taking an old family recipe and producing it on a commercial scale? Or maybe you are a small farmer with dairy cows, and you want to start selling cheese products?

If you currently have, or are considering starting, your own small farm-based agribusiness or food specialty business, the University of Scranton SBDC can help your business grow and succeed.


The University of Scranton SBDC offers one-on-one consulting specific to agricultural enterprises and specialty food businesses. Through partnerships with the USDA, agricultural extension agents, research entities, product testing labs, and the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), the Scranton SBDC can easily address the needs of companies who wish to take their food product to market.

Educational programs, presentations, and speakers, including ServSafe training for food handlers, are offered throughout the Pennsylvania SBDC 18-center network.

The SBDCs offer standard business services to agribusinesses along with specialized assistance for entrepreneurs looking to commercialize new food products.

If you are considering an agri-based business, the SBDC can help you find information and build your comprehensive business plan.

  • Start-Up issues what you need to have, or do, in order to begin)
  • Marketing (where, how, to whom etc.)
  • Pricing
  • Regulatory Issues
  • Profitability analysis
  • Financial projections

Review the PASBDC startup checklist

The Six Phase Process

An agribusiness consultant at SBDC can help you to commercialize your product by following your progress along six phases, from idea development to product commercialization:

  • Idea Development: analyze product need, profitability, market. Assist with referrals for prototype development.
  • Taste Panel and Consumer Sampling: evaluate product color, texture, flavor; linkage to outside consultants, PennTAP and other expertise.
  • Shelf-Life: contract with independent consultants/labs for shelf-life testing.
  • Packaging/Labeling: research packaging models and proper ingredient labeling.
  • Production and Test Marketing: select manufacturing process; introduce product to limited target area.
  • Commercialization Process: wider product distribution and manufacturing.

Agricultural Enterprises

At the SBDC, we are seeing growth in the category of small farms, often geared toward what is termed “alternative agriculture”.  These small farm businesses tend to sell either directly to the consumer via farmer’s markets or CSA’s (community supported agriculture entities, usually by subscription) or to food stores, restaurants or other outlets that emphasize locally grown or produced items.

Some examples of these types of small farm/agricultural businesses are:

  • Produce (sweet corn, blueberries, vegetables etc.)
  • Livestock-based (meat, dairy, breeding stock etc.)
  • Value-added farm businesses (cheese, cider, soap, wine etc.)
  • Farm-based enterprises (Christmas trees, firewood, farm vacations, corn mazes, bed & breakfast etc.)

Another emergent category is urban farming.  These growers own or rent small plots of land and utilize intensive methodologies to maximize yields in small spaces.

Complying With Regulations

The following websites provide information on the common regulations that affect small farmers/growers:

The Agribusiness and Food Specialty Center can be reached at the following locations in Northeastern PA:

  • Scranton
    The University of Scranton SBDC
    The Gallery House
    411-413 Quincy Avenue
    Scranton, PA 18510
    Contact: Maria Montenegro
    Tel: (570) 941-7588 or
    (800) 829-7232

Megan Schmidgal / PASBDC

  • Wellsboro
    The Pennsylvania College of Technology, Wellsboro Campus
    12880 Route 6, Wellsboro, PA 16901
    Contact: Susan Dillon
    Tel: (570) 724-7703
University of Scranton SBDC Agribusiness Consultants
Maria Montenegro and Susan Dillon – Scranton SBDC Agribusiness Consultants

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