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Trott column: Farm and garden safety training aimed at produce workers

Good Agricultural Practices training is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 2 online.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, University of Minnesota Extension will host a Good Agricultural Practices online training from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This 3.5-hour fully-online interactive course will provide a deep-dive into Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) on the farm. GAPs are science-based, farm-level practices for keeping fresh produce safe.

This training is strongly encouraged for farm owners, workers and gardeners who grow, harvest and pack fresh vegetables for sales to all markets, including at farmers’ markets, CSA, retail, schools, or restaurants, or for those who donate produce to others. Trainers will include experienced produce farmers and extension staff and will cover all aspects of on-farm food safety.

Participants will have a chance to win a handwashing stand for their operation and be issued certificates of attendance.

Why GAPs?

As consumption of fresh produce has increased, the number of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with fresh produce also has steadily increased. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are most often linked to these illnesses, as are parasites such as cryptosporidium and cyclospora. As a result, some larger buyers, especially supermarkets and produce distributors, have begun requiring their vendors to be audited by a third party to certify that they follow Good Agricultural Practices to minimize the risk of microbial contamination on their produce.

Why are GAPs important for my farm?

Good Agricultural Practices can reduce the risk of harmful contamination of your produce. Following best practices for reducing microbial contamination makes it more likely that the food that you sell to the public will not cause harm or illness for consumers. Reducing the risk of contamination before it occurs is the best way to minimize the risk of illness in the public. Lettuces, salad mix, green onions, tomatoes, sprouts, cantaloupes, carrots, raspberries, and herbs are most often associated with foodborne illness outbreaks because of how they are grown and consumed.

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All growers, regardless of their products, can benefit from implementing a set of standard operating procedures to reduce microbial contamination. GAPS are not intended to sanitize fresh produce or completely eliminate the risk of contamination: This is impossible. GAPs are intended to guide growers to reduce the risk of contamination where possible.

Instructors for this training are Annalisa Hultberg, extension food safety educator and Katie Drewitz, extension educator. To register for this or other upcoming sessions, please visit z.umn.edu/GAPS2022 .

Registration is required. This training will be conducted via Zoom, and a link will be sent to registered participants.

Scholarships for the course fee are available upon request. Please email Katie Drewitz at wins0115@umn.edu. No refunds will be issued for cancellations after registration closes. Cancellations prior to the close of registration will be fully refunded.

***

“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” — Will Rogers

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at trot0053@umn.edu.

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Robin Trott
Robin Trott

Robin Trott
Robin Trott

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