DOBSON — North Carolina Cooperative Extension will be offering training to local food producers to help reduce the risk of products becoming contaminated.
“Safe produce begins with the production and handling practices on the farm,” said Surry County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commercial and Consumer Horticulture Joanna Radford. “Produce that is grown and sold with little biological contamination is less likely to result in health hazards caused by poor handling during later preparation stages.”
She explained producers and their employees have the critical job of minimizing product contamination by learning about potential sources of contamination and by using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Radford indicated GAP training will be offered on Jan. 22, 24 and 29 at the extension services’ Surry County Center in Dobson. There is a $75 fee for training and registration. Interested persons are encouraged to register before Jan. 18 by calling 401-8025.
Radford said the first part of GAP training is education. She said a curriculum has been developed through Virginia and North Carolina Cooperative Extension which will be presented to local producers and is geared towards reducing contamination of products.
GAP training next gives producers resources to complete step two, a farm safety plan. She said that upon completion of this class the farmer receives a GAP training certificate issued by North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The farm safety plan process is unique to each farm. This process will allow a producer to go over his or her operation step-by-step and identify possible benefits and/or deficiencies in their production practices. Producers can then make necessary adjustments to ensure good and safe agricultural practices.
“The final step of the GAP process is the competition of the farm safety plan,” said Radford. “Much like the process of organic certification, an inspector visits a farm and walks through the production, harvest and transport system with the producer and verifies that safe practices are being used.”
She said this certification “opens doors” to many produce buyers that may never have been opened otherwise. Interested persons may obtain more information on GAP by calling the extension service at 401-8025.
Radford also wanted to remind farmers and homeowners who apply pesticides that they may need a pesticide license. This license enables applicators to purchase and apply restricted use pesticides for their own use. She said these types of pesticides have strict usage guidelines and require applicators to have a greater knowledge of their use.
Once applicators are certified, they will have opportunities to attend educational trainings that help keep them up to date with pesticide use and safety.
Applicators who want to obtain a private pesticide license must pass a written test administered by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, Pesticide Section. This test is scheduled t be held Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. at the extension service offices in Dobson. Registration costs $10 and is required and may be paid by check or money order. Persons are encouraged to pre-register by calling 401-8025.