Experts at the University of Florida are on a mission to help small farmers develop and implement on-farm food safety plans.
The University’s Small Farms Academy, part of the North Florida Research and Education Center, is hosting two workshops next week to work with farmers on food safety and record keeping practices meant to enhance both public health and sales, according to Bob Hochmuth, an extension agent based at the center.
“We want to make sure farmers have the opportunity to maintain high foodsafety standards, regardless of size,” Hochmuth said in a University of Florida press release. “Those who are early adopters will be able to use this as a marketing tool.”
As Hochmuth points out, food wholesalers often require suppliers to pass third-party audits before signing contracts. It’s easier for large farms to absorb the cost of developing customized plans and hiring consultants.
“For smaller farms trying to sell wholesale, those options may not be financially possible…But the UF workshops provide hands-on training that lets farmers themselves set up, implement, and document a foodsafety plan that could help them pass an audit,” says the Small Farm Academy.
“The workshop itself won’t prepare your farm for a third-party audit,” Hochmuth said. “But you’ll walk out with an understanding of what you need to do to get ready.”
“Even at a farmers market, it’s great to be able to tell your customer, ‘I’m holding myself to a high standard to protect you,'” Hochmuth said.
According to the university, Trenton-based farmer Jodi Douberly of Douberly Melon Sales completed a workshop earlier this year, and called it an “eye-opener.”
“I don’t think everyone quite understood the intensity of what you have to go through to prepare for an audit,” said Douberly, who had gone through one audit prior to the workshop and has done another since. “The workshop was a very good starting point.”
According to the university, space is still available but early registration is strongly encouraged; visit http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu.