Food safety training continues for fruit, vegetable farmers
By Martha Filipic | Posted on 7/17/2014
GALLIPOLIS, Ohio – An Aug. 13 session will mark the end of the season's trainings for on-farm fruit and vegetable microbial safety, but organizers are already planning new sessions focusing on agricultural water safety beginning in 2015.
The Good Agricultural Practices Training program will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Gallia County office of Ohio State University Extension, 111 Jackson Pike, Gallipolis. Registration is $20 and is required by Aug. 6. Go to producesafety.osu.edu/good-agricultural-practices-gaps-gallia-county to download and print the registration form. For information, contact Jeff Moore, OSU Extension educator, at 740-466-7007.
Participants receive a certificate of participation and a recordkeeping binder, said Lindsey Hoover of Ohio State University's Fruit and Vegetable Safety Team, the program's sponsor. The team and OSU Extension are both part of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Hoover said the Gallipolis training is the final GAPs training session planned for this year. Throughout 2014, the team offered 20 such sessions throughout Ohio, reaching over 450 growers.
Although attending such sessions does not make growers "GAPs-certified," which some retailers require of their suppliers, it does prepare farmers to begin developing on-farm food safety plans and teaches them the basics of what they need to do to provide safe produce for consumers.
In the meantime, the team is planning a series of Ohio agricultural water workshops to further educate fruit and vegetable growers on Food and Drug Administration food safety standards, proper water sample collection and water handling. Hoover said workshops will take place January through April in 2015 and 2016 in Cleveland, Columbus, Wooster and Piketon. Those workshops will be free because of funding from the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
"We are focusing on agricultural water because, like soil amendments, growers are used to using what they have always used, and there's never been concern about how water is applied and what the source of the water is," Hoover said.
"The FDA is now focusing on water quality because evidence supports the idea that water used on the farm can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness. Farmers covered by this portion of the new FDA rules will have to begin testing their water on a regular basis, something that some have never considered and wouldn't know where to start to comply with the rule."
For the water workshops, three local laboratories have offered to help train farmers on proper collection techniques and the ins and outs of water testing at the laboratory, Hoover said. The labs will also give a one-time discount rate for water testing to growers who attend the meeting.
More information on the workshops will be available on the team's website, www.producesafety.osu.edu