North Carolina Cooperative Extension is helping fruit and vegetable farmers across the state minimize fresh produce safety risks through a comprehensive set of educational tools.

The N.C. MarketReady Fresh Produce Safety – Field to Family training curriculum is being distributed to Extension agents throughout the state. The training manual focuses on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), including what it takes to obtain GAPs certification, and managing risks from field to market. Extension agents, who received training on using the curriculum earlier this year, will use the curriculum to train growers.

“This is an opportune time to educate growers so they may be equipped with the knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices in advance of impending food safety regulations,” says Diane Ducharme, GAPs program coordinator and Extension associate in horticulture and food safety with N.C. MarketReady. “Implementing the practices outlined in the training curriculum will allow North Carolina growers to compete in the evolving agricultural market.”

The curriculum is divided into two training tiers. The tiered educational program has been developed to encompass the wide range of growers’ needs reflecting farm size, markets and associated commodity-specific risks. It is designed to give producers a proactive, educational and incentive-based program for their individual needs.

• Tier 1 will address GAPs that are directly related to field production and harvest. The training will include an introduction to common food-borne pathogens and diseases as well as recognizing points of potential contamination, proper use of biosolids as a nutrient source, effective hand-washing procedures, packing facility cleanliness and verifying water quality for field application and postharvest handling.

• Tier 2 will address risk identification and management issues including transportation and traceability, product recalls, liability and insurance options, and crisis communications.

The N.C. MarketReady Fresh Produce Safety training curriculum was developed with funding from Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the USDA Risk Management Agency. Contributing authors of the curriculum were faculty from North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T State universities, along with members of the North Carolina Fresh Produce Safety Task Force. Learn more at www.ncmarketready.org.