Workshops will be offered starting this month for growers across Iowa who want to learn ways they can make their crops safer for consumers to eat. Margaret Smith, coordinator of the value added agriculture program at the Iowa State University Extension, says the food safety workshops will held in seven cities statewide.
“These are geared toward farmers,” Smith says. “We’re really looking at fruits and vegetables, food that is going to be consumed fresh.” In recent years, there have been increasing reports of illnesses nationwide, in many cases, caused by people eating contaminated produce. During the slow winter months, Smith says Iowa growers need to take the opportunity to learn about better ways to deliver a safer product from farm to table.
“We’ll be working with producers on methodology, background on what organisms are concerned, how food does become contaminated,” Smith says. “Then, we’ll talk a lot about steps you can take to prevent that.” Farmers are always concerned about the bottom line and Smith says making food safer doesn’t necessarily have to mean more expense.
“In some cases, there will be some costs, in other cases, steps that will help improve food safety also help improve post-harvest handling and post-harvest quality of the fruits and vegetables,” Smith says. “If you get things out of the field quickly and are practicing good hygiene that produce is going to also stay in better condition, so in some cases, it can save or make them money.” She says the workshops will also cover the implications of recent federal food safety legislation on small growers.
Smith says, “With the trainings, we will be providing certificates that any grower can use either with a buyer or at their farmers market to show they’ve taken an extra step in preparing themselves and educating themselves to try and provide even safer food than they are already.” The first of the day-long workshops will be held January 27th in Des Moines. Others scheduled include: February 2nd in Muscatine, February 3rd in Oelwein, February 4th in Ames, February 8th in Griswold, February 9th in Sioux City and February 10th in Mason City. Learn more at: “www.iastatelocalfoods.org“.