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Produce safety focus of farmer workshops

by Special to The Commercial | January 16, 2021 at 2:58 a.m.
Don Kretschmann harvests kale on his farm in Rochester, Pa., in this Nov. 16, 2020, file photo. Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Kretschmann retired in 2020 after growing produce organically for almost 50 years. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture will offer online produce safety training workshops to educate fruit and vegetable producers about new rules for protecting the food supply.

Two online workshops will be offered from 8 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 10-11 and March 31-April 1. Participants can register at www.uaex.edu/producesafety. Registration closes seven days before each training so that materials can be mailed to participants.

The registration deadlines are Feb. 3 for the first training and March 13 for the second, according to a news release.

"Health is more important than ever, and food safety starts on the farm," said Amanda Philyaw Perez, extension food systems and safety specialist for the Division of Agriculture, who leads the training.

"Implementing good agricultural practices learned in this training can help fruit and vegetable producers guard against the spread of the coronavirus as well," Perez said.

Topics will include agricultural water, soil amendments, worker health and hygiene, wildlife management, post-harvest handling and food safety plans.

The training, developed by the Produce Safety Alliance, helps growers understand regulatory requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule, which regulates standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce.

Participants will receive a certificate of completion, which satisfies the Produce Safety Rule training requirement. Participants must be present both days of the training and must have internet access, Zoom videoconferencing software, a web camera and a microphone.

Typically, extension offers in-person training at sites across Arkansas, however online sessions began because of covid-19. Extension will continue providing trainings online until the number of covid cases is more under control, Perez said.

For more information, contact Perez at (501) 671-2228. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow the agency on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

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