New Food Business Specialist to Help Food Processors and Entrepreneurs

Penny Brown Huber looks forward to working with food processors and entrepreneurs

January 30, 2024, 11:33 am | Penny Brown Huber

AMES, Iowa – Launching a food-related business is no small task, especially for those involved with food processing and sales.

It’s a challenge that Penny Brown Huber knows well, having spent most of her career helping food-related entrepreneurs secure the resources they need to succeed.

Penny Brown Huber.Brown Huber started a new role with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach on Jan. 2, serving as a food business specialist.

Her job is to assist Iowa food processing entrepreneurs, as part of the Heartland Regional Food Business Center – a five-state cooperative project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“I think the key will be helping people one-on-one to try and make a step forward,” said Brown Huber. “It’s really challenging when you are an entrepreneur, trying to analyze and make business decisions and you are trying to do all of these different things on your own.”

Brown Huber holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and business from St. Ambrose University, and a master’s in public administration from Drake University. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, including a 13-year stint leading Grow Your Small Market Farm, a program that educated small farmers and food entrepreneurs on business fundamentals.

For the past 13 years, she led Prairie Rivers of Iowa, a nonprofit that promotes economic development through the restoration and conservation of Iowa’s cultural and natural resources.

As a member of the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development program at Iowa State, she will provide resources and education that help entrepreneurs grow their business. She will share the expertise of ISU Extension and Outreach, as well as local and regional resources.

“We are excited to have Penny on board with us,” said Christa Hartsook, program manager at Farm, Food and Enterprise Development. “Penny’s expertise in working with food entrepreneurs will be valuable for clients looking to scale.”

Brown Huber’s goal is to assist entrepreneurs in expanding the number of small and medium sized local food processing companies, while creating a more robust local food system in Iowa.

“My hope is that we’re breaking problems down and maybe shortcutting some complex ideas for people,” she said. “I want to help them build their business plans and their confidence to solve problems, so they have the best chance to create profitable food processing companies here in Iowa.”

Brown Huber will work closely with the five-state team that comprises the Heartland Regional Food Business Center, but she is stationed at Iowa State and will serve Iowans. She can be reached at 515-294-4417 or

The Heartland Regional Food Business Center is one of 12 Regional Food Business Centers established in 2023 and funded initially by the USDA. The center’s mission is to build a more resilient, responsive and competitive food system by providing local and proactive assistance to small, mid-sized, and diverse food and farm businesses, as well as local and regional food sector initiatives. For more information, visit the center online.

Shareable photo: Penny Brown Huber

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