URI, DEM certify six R.I. farms for Good Agricultural Practices
KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 29, 2002 -- Six farms in South County and the East Bay are the first to be certified for their good farming and food handling practices as part of the voluntary Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program sponsored by the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
The newly certified farms are Hallene Farm in Exeter, Manfredi Farms in Westerly, Maplewood Farm in Portsmouth, Quonset View Farm in Portsmouth, Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, and Walker Farm in Little Compton. The farms received their certification this month following an extensive training program and an audit of their facilities and work practices by DEMs Division of Agriculture.
"In recent years the U.S. has seen an increasing number of documented food borne disease outbreaks traced to fresh vegetables and fruits," said URI food safety educator Lori Pivarnik. "GAP is designed to get farmers to take stock of what theyre doing and minimize the potential for contamination."
Added Ken Ayars, Division of Agriculture chief: "This is a voluntary program that we want to have in place as a means of recognizing farms for the use of good management practices, with emphasis on food safety. This has value to consumers as well, and is especially relevant to Rhode Island, given that the majority of Rhode Island grown produce is sold directly to the public through roadside stands and farmers markets."
The New England-wide program was launched in 2001 after URIs Food Safety Education Program received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Following guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Pivarnik and her colleague Martha Patnoad solicited interested farmers.
"These farms are now certified that theyve taken steps to minimize microbial hazards," explained Patnoad. "Lots of farmers may take the same steps, and these six farms are going the extra mile to make sure certain practices are in place."
The primary issues that farmers must address to reduce contamination are worker hygiene, irrigation water quality, proper use of fertilizers (especially manure), produce handling and contaminated run-off.
The farmers all believe that the certification will help in the marketing of their produce.
"Consumers want their food supply as clean as it can be, and it doesnt take much extra effort to follow some common sense rules to keep it clean," said farmer Richard Manfredi of Manfredi Farms. "In time, farms are going to need to be certified just so the public has confidence in you. Youve got to win their confidence, and this is one way to do it."
Added David Cotta of Quonset View Farm, "Im sure that if somebody sees that we took the effort to do these extra things, they might be more likely to buy from us."
For Information: Martha Patnoad 874-2960, Todd McLeish 874-7892