Extension office readies farmers for market
by Matt Shinall
Mar 29, 2013 | 1390 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville’s  downtown Farmers Market usually offers fresh vegetables, plants, flowers canned jelly and other local goods. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
Cartersville’s downtown Farmers Market usually offers fresh vegetables, plants, flowers canned jelly and other local goods. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
As the weather warms, farmers and gardeners will soon ready their land for the production of fruits and vegetables, many of which may wind up at a local farmers market destined for the dinner table.

To ensure the safety of local produce, the University of Georgia Extension Service has developed a program aimed at small- to medium-sized farmers taking produce to market. Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce on the Farm and at the Market will be held Monday, April 1, from 5:15 to 8:30 p.m. at the Olin Tatum Agricultural Building, 320 W. Cherokee Ave., Cartersville.

“Last year was the first time that this program was offered in the state of Georgia,” said Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Kathy Floyd. “The UGA College of Family and Consumer Science worked with some of the folks in the ag school and developed this with grant money. So this is the first time we’ve had anything like this. 

“Of course we’ve been doing food safety in the home for years. So it’s kind of the same idea, we just haven’t put it together with best practices in the field.”

Broken into two sessions, the first will begin with how to enhance food safety on the farm. From irrigation and fertilization to harvesting and storing produce, Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese will help farmers and gardeners implement a set of best practices to keep their fruits and vegetables free of contaminants.

“This is a really important seminar for those folks that want to grow their vegetables and sell them, whether it’s at a roadside stand from their own home or selling at local farmers markets,” Pugliese said. “Food safety is a big deal, especially when you’re talking about fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s very, very easy to contaminate these food items. We take it for granted when we go to the grocery store and everything is set out and clean and handled properly, stored at the right temperature and we assume that what we buy at the grocery store is going to be safe, but a lot of people don’t think about that when they go to a farmers market and they need to take it just as seriously. No matter where you buy your produce, it’s important to try and avoid foodborne pathogens.”

The second session, led by Floyd, will focus on maintaining an environment of food safety throughout the process of transporting, displaying and selling fresh produce at a farmers market.

“My portion of the program is directed more to the market situation where farmers are handling the food and giving samples,” Floyd said. “But just like the farm portion, we’ll cover best practices to use at the farmers market, how food should be handled, if you’re giving samples how to handle that, temperature and storage issues — especially items that have been cut where samples are being given.

“I think most of it is pretty simple and makes sense, but we want to have it covered from the field to the market.”

Monday’s program is offered at no cost as a service of the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office. Take-home resources and references will be provided for participants. Those interested in attending are asked to call ahead today or Monday before the course begins.

For more information, or to register to attend, call 770-387-5142 or email uge1015@uga.edu.