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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI, Division of Agriculture launch fourth year of Good Agricultural Practices program

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Food safety program aimed at farmers of fruits, vegetables

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 9, 2005 -- The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension and the R.I. Division of Agriculture, with the support of the R.I. Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education, are launching the fourth year of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program, a voluntary effort aimed at ensuring that the state’s farmers produce safe fruits and vegetables.

Farmers interested in participating in the 2005 GAP certification program are encouraged to attend one of two educational meetings – Tuesday, March 1 from 9 a.m. to noon at the USDA office, 60 Quaker Lane, Warwick, or Wednesday, March 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Conanicut Grange, 6 West Rd., Jamestown.

Farmers who have already become GAP certified have come to consider the program a good business practice since they know that consumers want clean food, according to URI food safety educator Lori Pivarnik. They found that it takes little effort to follow a few common sense rules. “That’s 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 URI’s Food Safety Education Program received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the program is to ensure that growers incorporate basic food safety principles into farm management practices to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. 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. Since 2002, 13 farms from throughout Rhode Island have been certified.

For more information, farmers should call Lori Pivarnik at 874-2972 or Martha Patnoad at 874-2960.