Farmers and Food Safety Issues

There has been a great deal of discussion this year about the new food safety rules the federal government is enacting.  Most of it has been grumbling and complaining about more rules and regulations to have to abide by, big expenditures that will need to be made to comply, and how this will all result in the loss of more small farms.  One thing I've noticed, though, is how few people have taken the time to really learn about what the risks really are and what they will need to do to comply.  Have you taken any classes to learn how to improve your own practices?

There are many resources available to you in North Carolina.  You can physically attend classes or get the information over the internet.  I urge you to take the time this winter to learn about this topic.  None of us wants to take the risk of making anyone sick.  And even though most farms I visit look like they are doing a pretty good job on the food safety scene, every now and then I see something a little scary that the farmer hadn't noticed.  We know so much more about food safety now than we did ten or twenty years ago.  Just think about your own kitchens.  Twenty years ago most of us had a single cutting board that we used for all purposes.  Now that we all understand the risk of spreading Salmonella from raw chicken to fresh vegetables, most of us have separate cutting boards for raw meat and raw fruits and vegetables.

Here are just a few opportunities and websites for you to get more information on improving food safety on your farm.  Most of the big fruit and vegetable conferences this winter will also contain sessions on fresh produce safety.

October 2009
Food Safety Classes for Fruit and Vegetable Growers
Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center
971 West King Street, Boone, NC
The New River Headwaters Area Alternative Agriculture Program will offer a series of classes to guide growers through evaluating and improving their own fresh produce food safety practices. Each class will meet from 6:00 - 8:00 pm and is free to all interested farmers. The dates and topics to be covered are:

October 20, Tuesday: Fresh Produce Food Safety Issues and Considerations for Small Farms.
October 21, Wednesday: Implementing Fresh Produce Safety Practices on Your Small Farm.
October 27, Tuesday: Developing a Fresh Prodcue Food Safety Plan for Your Small Farm
October 28, Wednesday: GAP Certifications and Food Safety Audits-Does Your Farm Need Them?

For more information, call The Watauga County Cooperative Extension Center at 828-264-3061.

October 29-30, 2009
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) Training
in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Conducted by North Carolina A&T Cooperative Extension. The workshop will begin shortly after lunch on Thursday the 29th and conclude after lunch on Friday the 30th. The Thursday session will be held in Wrightsville Beach at the Shell Island Hotel. On Friday, we will travel to two farms where greens are being grown for the wholesale market. We will discuss and demonstrate GAPs for production of greens on those farms. A final stop on Friday will be the Operation Spring Plant (our partner in this project) Prize of the Harvest packing shed in Faison, where we will discuss GHPs. We have scholarships available for farmers for lodging and meals. However, the number of hotel rooms we have booked is limited, so any farmers who want to attend need to reserve a “place” ASAP by calling Linda McCain at 336-334-7957.

November 18, 2009
Food Safety: From Production to Sales
from 9:00 am-3:30 pm at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems  in Goldsboro, NC. For more information visit the CEFS website:  http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/

Websites
NC Fresh Produce Safety:  http://www.ncsu.edu/fvsi/ncfreshproduce/
NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services: http://www.agr.state.nc.us/fooddrug/foodsafety/index.htm
USDA: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/

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