BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Driven by customer demand and personal responsibility, many U.S. fruit and vegetable growers are stepping up their food safety practices through improved methods of production, harvesting and post-harvest handling.
With the help of a $53,000 Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant, several Ohio organizations, including Ohio State University Extension, are making sure that Ohio growers meet national standards of producing safe produce.
Mary Donnell, an Ohio State University Extension agent for the Agricultural Business Enhancement (ABE) Center in Bowling Green, wrote the grant along with John Wargowsky, executive director of Mid American Ag and Hort Services, Inc. (MAAHS). With the grant, food safety will be emphasized through educational materials, on-farm consultations and workshops to encourage Ohio fruit and vegetable growers to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) - nationally recognized guidelines for improving food safety during production, harvesting and packaging.
"Food safety is important to Ohio growers for a number of reasons. Ohio growers want to produce safe fruits and vegetables. Retailers and consumers who purchase fresh fruits and vegetables are becoming more aware and concerned about the safety of the food they buy," said Donnell. "Also, food-borne illness outbreaks that are traced back to a farm can put that farmer out of business. So incorporating good agricultural practices into a farming operation is just good business." The ABE Center and MAAHS will be collaborating with the Center for Innovative Food Technology in Columbus (a division of the Edison Industrial Service Center) to educate Ohio fruit and vegetable growers on food safety issues ranging from water management to the microbiology of food-borne pathogens. A two-day food safety workshop will be held in March, with one day dedicated to teaching Ohio growers GAP techniques and one day spent training Extension agents and consultants how to teach GAP principles to Ohio fruit and vegetable growers.
"The grant allows us to use workshops, on-farm visits and educational materials to provide a comprehensive field to fork approach to ensure a safe food product," said Donnell.
For more information on the Ohio Specialty Crop Food Safety Initiative grant, contact Donnell at (419) 354-6916 or email@example.com, or John Wargowsky at (614) 246-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to http://www.midamservices.org.