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Workshop for Growers Focuses on Practical Food Safety on the Farm

Weathersfield--Having a food safety plan in place can help Vermont growers minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce.

On Feb. 12 University of Vermont (UVM) Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture will offer a hands-on workshop on writing a practical produce safety plan for small and diversified fruit and vegetable farmers who market directly and locally. The day-long workshop will be held at Martin Memorial Hall, 5199 U.S. Route 5, Weathersfield, with an afternoon field trip to Deep Meadow Farm in Ascutney.

Although the workshop provides a good foundation for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit certification, it is intended for both organic and conventional farmers who do not plan to become GAP-certified in the near future. Participants will leave the workshop with a concise, on-farm produce safety plan to share with employees and buyers.

Registration, which includes a catered lunch, is $30, or $15 per person for two or more people from the same farm. Scholarships are available. Registrations will be accepted until Feb. 5 online, by mail or phone.

To register online go to http://vermontpracticalfoodsafetyplan.eventbrite.com/#. Forms for mail-in registrations may be found at http://www.uvm.edu/sustainableagriculture/Documents/PFSRegistrationFeb13.pdf. Or growers may call Cheryl at (802) 656-5459 to register with a credit card.

The workshop gets underway at 8:30 a.m. with a discussion on the fundamentals of produce safety for small, diversified farms and steps growers can take in the production, harvesting and storage of fresh produce to improve hygiene and sanitation. It continues after lunch at Deep Meadow Farm where owner Jon Cohen will talk about his diversified farm operation and share his experiences as one of the first farmers in the state to implement the practical produce safety model developed by UVM Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

On his 40-acre Connecticut Valley farm Cohen raises vegetables, herbs, flowers, chickens, turkeys and pigs, which he markets through an on-site farm stand, local farmers' markets, a 90-member CSA (community-supported agriculture) and local and national wholesale accounts. Last year he received a grant for GAPS-related infrastructure improvements that enabled him to build a cold storage facility.

Participants are asked to bring a laptop computer, if available, or can plan to borrow one from UVM Extension to use to draft a food safety plan for their farm. For more information or to request a scholarship or disability-related accommodation, please contact Ginger Nickerson at (802) 505-8189 or gnickers@uvm.edu by Feb. 1.

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