Val Leitner, Stefanie Samara Hamblen, Maya Garner: Spirit of Gainesville nominees

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.

Blue Oven Kitchens is a cetified commercial kitchen that incubates food businesses, help entrepreneuers in all phases of start-up and works with the entire North Central Florida foodshed in making connections between farmers, restaurants and all those involved with food. In giving anyone in the community a place to build a local business, we are maximizing the potential of the entire community. We also provide education about food, primarily through a relationship with CHOICES of Alachua County and our local farmers markets.

We have been working towards opening a facility for several years and we are in the final phases of preparation (cleaning and inspection) before opening our kitchen. In the meatime, we have matched budding food business owners with restaurants that have time to rent, created a "Buy Local North Central Florida" campaign, and created and hosted three annual Farm-to-Restaurant Workshop and Culinary Fairs. Working with Florida Organic Growers, we helped create and run a Cash Mob to spur business at the Alachua County Farmers Market.

While all three of us have worked towards our goal, Val Leitner has worked for no pay for BOK, yet has devoted the time for a full time job with overtime. While we foresee our work continuing to expand over the next few years, we also know that our non-profit will become more self-sustaining with rental and class income to support our efforts and facility. Once the facility opens in the next month or so, we will host classes, help businesses grow and help entrepreneuers become owners of successful food businesses. Food incubators, like BOK, have revived and renewed neighborhoods and communities thoughout the county - check out La Cucina in San Francisco!

Val also works on local economic studies, Stefanie is the owner of Hogtown HomeGrown and Maya is co-owner of The Jones.

Submitted by Stefanie Samara Hamblen

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