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MADISON

With new federal food safety regulations in effect, vegetable farmers are increasingly turning their attention to developing sound, practical food safety plans for their farms.

To address farmers' interest in learning about workable and effective food safety solutions, University of Wisconsin-Extension, in partnership with Family Farmed, is hosting workshops in Stevens Point on March 15 and Viroqua on March 18, to help growers create individualized food safety plans and navigate the new federal regulations mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act.

'On-farm food safety touches all vegetable farmers throughout Wisconsin, regardless of market, production scale, or production practices,' said Erin Silva, UW-Madison/Extension assistant professor of plant pathology. 'No farmer wants to cause illness in a consumer; the basis of good food safety practices is reducing the risk of possible produce contamination, rather than reacting to contamination if it were to occur.'

Various topics

The workshops will cover a range of topics, including harvest and postharvest practices for vegetable crops, such as cleaning and sanitation practices and packing shed design.

Additionally, the 'Why and What' of food safety will be explained, along with impacts of the federal regulation.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity in the afternoon to develop their own food safety action plans, leaving the workshop with a document that can serve as a foundation for pursuing a third-party audit.

Participants are asked to bring copies of farm field maps to facilitate the development of the food safety plans.

Atina Diffley, a founding farmer of the Gardens of Eagan in Minnesota, will lead the workshops.

Atina brings a wealth of practical knowledge and experience from her over twenty years of experience farming organic vegetables.

A highly respected speaker on many issues related to vegetable production, Atina brings practical examples of good postharvest management strategies that lead to both safe and high quality produce.

Training a must

Although not all buyers of produce are requiring third-party food safety audits, an increasing number of purchasers are asking for either verification of food safety training or a food safety plan.

'With increasing interest in the procurement of local produce, having a written food safety plan can open doors to new, profitable markets for Wisconsin's vegetable farmers,' Silva explained.

The workshops are available to anyone with an interest in learning more about on-farm produce food safety.

The content will be applicable to diversified vegetable farmers of all scales.

In addition to the valuable information provided by Atina Diffley, participants will receive Family Farmed's manual 'Wholesale Success: A Farmer's Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce'.

Normally a $70 value, this 316 page manual is newly updated and in its fourth printing and covers up-to-date best practices information on food safety, postharvest handling, packing, business management, marketing, and crop-specific profiles for over 100 crops.

Preregistration is required for the events, and a $20 registration fee will be collected in advance by mail.

Those interested in registering for the events should contact Dr. Erin Silva, emsilva@wisc.edu, 608-890-1503. These workshops are made possible by a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency.

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