Miller: Growers need to know 'nuts and bolts' of proposal
By SEAN ELLIS
CALDWELL, Idaho -- A Feb. 1 workshop for fresh produce growers that will focus on food safety is expected to draw a lot of interest because of the recently proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules.
The workshop will address issues related to the Food and Drug Administration's proposed rules and cover wholesale marketing and profit planning.
Presenters will talk about packing quality, postharvest handling, how to write a food safety plan "and then, most importantly for some farmers, how to design a good pack shed and cleaning facility," said Jennifer Miller, one of the event organizers.
"They will really be getting into the nuts and bolts of how you do these things on the farm and do them in a way that ensures safety," said Miller, of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
The annual event, which is presented by NCAP, University of Idaho Extension and Idaho State Department of Agriculture and rotates topics, normally attracts 60 to 70 people. "We hope to exceed that this year because of the timeliness of the (FSMA rules)," Miller said.
The training will be provided by members of FamilyFarmed.org. The group received USDA funds to train fruit and vegetable growers in food safety practices in 2013.
"A lot of people are wondering, what does this rule mean," Miller said. "It's 600-plus pages and it's a lot to read."
All farmers should become aware of the proposed FSMA rules, said organizer Beth Rasgorshek, who grows wheat and vegetable seeds in Nampa.
"No matter what scale you're farming on ... you're going to have to be aware of the rules and follow them," she said. "Anyone who is selling their farm products to the public ... needs to know what the proposed rules are."
Separate sessions on financial management tools and record-keeping will also be offered during the workshop, which will conclude with a panel of retail and foodservice buyers from Idaho's Treasure Valley area who will discuss their local produce buying preferences and requirements.
Workshop participants will receive a free manual, "Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Food Safety, Postharvest Handling, Packing and Selling Produce." According to organizers, the 312-page publication is a leading resource on selling into wholesale markets.
The workshop will be followed Feb. 1 evening and Feb. 2 by the Grower's Own Conference, a farmer-to-farmer exchange and networking opportunity for producers interested in organic production methods.
The workshop and conference will be held at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. The Feb. 1 workshop costs $25, the conference costs $55 and both together cost $70. Pre-registration is required at www.pesticide.org or by contacting Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-850-6504.