Free Small Farm Fresh Produce Safety Workshops

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Free Small Farm Fresh Produce Safety Workshops 5/25 and 6/6

The High Country’s small farms grow amazing fresh produce for local sales at regional farmers markets, for Community Supported Agriculture groups, the High Country Food Hub, and other retail markets. Small farms such as are common here generally do not need to pursue expensive GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification required by wholesale customers such as grocery store chains. Also, most regional small farms selling primarily to local retail customers are “Qualified Exempt” from many of the record-keeping and testing requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This gives small farms the freedom to organize their own systems for harvests, washing, packing, and tracking their produce. In late May and early June, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Blue Ridge Women In Agriculture’s CRAFT program, and small-scale High Country vegetable producers team-up to offer two free Fresh Produce Safety Workshops for small farms and market gardeners.

Photo of several people gathered around a table watching a demonstration

N.C. Cooperative Extension has taught food safety in the classroom before, but the upcoming fresh produce food safety workshops of 5/25 and 6/6 will be on-farm and hands-on.

The first of the Fresh Produce Safety Workshops will be hosted by Mountainwise Farm, located in Zionville, NC on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. EDT. This workshop will cover washing, sanitizing, and post-harvest handling best practices, beginning in the field, moving through Mountainwise’s wash/pack system, and ending in the distribution process. Casey and Tyler Jordan of Mountainwise Farm produce diversified vegetable crops via low/no-till practices, following the standards to be Certified Naturally Grown. They employ organic practices to provide their community with high-quality and environmentally conscious food that nourishes the body, environment, and soul. Food safety is an integral part of providing high-quality products their customers deserve.

N.C. Cooperative Extension Agents Elena Rogers and Richard Boylan will teach about food safety principles and offer straightforward strategies regarding farm compliance with food safety laws, with the goal of helping farmers protect operations, products, and customers via sound production, harvest, washing, and packing practices.

The workshop will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. and pre-registration is required. To register for the 5/25 free workshop, please visit our Eventbrite page to sign up for the event.

The second of the free Small Farm Produce Safety workshops will be held on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. EDT at the FIG Incubator Farm in Valle Crucis, NC. Participants will learn about washing, sanitizing, and post-harvest handling best practices, beginning in the field and ending in the distribution process. Elena Rogers and Richard Boylan of N.C. Cooperative Extension will be joined by Dave Walker of Daffodil Spring Farm to demonstrate the FIG Farm’s wash/pack setup and explain how products can safely move from the field to a customer’s plate, and discuss the importance of food safety from a health and customer satisfaction point of view. The workshop will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m. and pre-registration is required. To register for the 6/6 free workshop, please visit our Eventbrite page to sign up for the event.

The two workshops will cover the same principles of Produce Safety for small-scale farms, with the main difference being the state of the host farms’ wash / pack infrastructure. At Mountainwise, where the 5/25 workshop will be held, growers have converted a garage space into an integrated wash / pack / cool facility for their farm. On 6/6 at the FIG Farm, participants would see more of an outdoor wash / pack space, where cooling is handled inside the adjacent barn. However, workshop leaders will be happy to discuss any scale of infrastructure at either session. For more information, call Watauga Cooperative Extension at 828-264-3061.