There have been several well-publicized incidents over the last few years in which fruits or vegetables were contaminated by microbes, sold to the public, and people were sickened and even died.
The resulting backlash has led to the development of standards to minimize the risk of microbial contamination. The federal government’s Food and Drug Administration is creating these standards, called Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), to minimize contamination risks in fields, orchards and packing sheds.
The rules are not complete yet, but they are being finalized. What we do know is that growers will be required to go through GAPs training where they will learn about techniques to reduce contamination. Some buyers of produce are already beginning to require their growers to go through training. At some point down the road, growers will most likely be required to certify their farm for GAPs. We do not fully know what that will involve.
Purdue Extension will be offering two chances locally for growers to attend GAPs training: Thursday, March 27, in LaGrange County at the Clear Spring Produce Auction, and Friday, March 28, in Elkhart County at the Wakarusa Produce Auction. Both training sessions will last approximately six hours. The LaGrange County training will run from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Elkhart County training will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Both programs will feature the same content.
When you complete one of these training sessions, you will receive a certificate that you attended the training. This is not the same thing as having your farm certified. Certification of a farm will be more complicated and the exact requirements are not 100 percent known yet.
Produce growers who have not yet participated in a GAPs training are encouraged to pick one of these programs to attend. We would like your reservation by March 21 to plan for meals. A meal will be provided at both events.
The cost is $30 per farm for the first person, $10 for the second person. Make checks payable to Purdue CES Education fund. If you are attending in LaGrange, the reservation should be sent to Steve Engleking, Purdue Extension-LaGrange County, 114 W Michigan St., Suite 10, LaGrange, IN 46761. If you are attending in Elkhart County, please send your information to Jeff Burbrink, Purdue Extension-Elkhart County, 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 45628.
If you have a need for a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please call my office at 574-533-0554 at least a week ahead of the program.
Jeff Burbrink is an extension educator at Purdue Extension Elkhart County, 17746 C.R. 34, Suite E, Goshen IN 46528-6898. Reach him by phone at 574-533-0554, by fax at 574-533-0254 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.