Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892
URI, Division of Agriculture launch
second year of Good Agricultural Practices program
Food safety program aimed at
farmers of fruits, vegetables
KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 15, 2003 -- The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension, the R.I. Division of Agriculture, and the R.I. Center for Commercial Agriculture are launching the second year of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program, a voluntary effort aimed at ensuring that the states farmers produce safe fruits and vegetables.
Farmers interested in participating in the 2003 GAP certification program are encouraged to attend an educational meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. at the USDA office, 60 Quaker Lane, Warwick.
According to URI food safety educator Lori Pivarnik, farmers involved in last years pilot program have come to consider the GAP certification program a good business practice since they know that consumers want clean food. They found that it takes little effort to follow a few common sense rules. "Thats what this program is designed to do provide guidelines to grow, harvest, package, process and/or transport fresh fruits and vegetables that will minimize any microbial food safety hazards that could occur," she said.
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. The primary issues that farmers must address to reduce microbial contamination are worker health and hygiene, water quality, proper use of manure and biosolids, produce handling and sanitation.
Upon completion of training and a subsequent audit of their farm, the farm will become GAP-certified and receive resources to help market the farm as such. Six farms in Rhode Island were certified during last years pilot program: 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.
For more information, farmers should call Lori Pivarnik at 874-2972 or Martha Patnoad at 874-2960.