It’s August and time to emphasize food. The Indiana State Fair gets underway today with its theme The Wonderful World of Food. You know you can find many varieties of great food at the state fair, much of it locally grown. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has declared next week National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets are popping up all over Indiana, and now Purdue Extension has announced regular best-practices training for those producing the fruits and vegetables.
“The opportunity for a consumer to go and buy directly from a farmer is a great thing,” says Amanda Deering, clinical assistant professor in Purdue’s Department of Food Science. “If we can even improve it a little bit more by adding that safety component, that educational component, to what they’re already doing, I mean most of these guys are already doing these things, but just to have that little bit of extra information on some of these things that maybe they don’t quite know yet or do, could be beneficial.”
Deering says the GAPs training, short for Good Agricultural Practices is not required but recommended to help prevent contamination. It covers all the basics.
“Everything from pre-harvest, post-harvest, water quality, how to train your workers, developing a food safety plan. If you are just selling direct to consumers, say at farmers markets, there are pieces of it that may be a little bit more information than what you need, but to me it’s always a good refresher course or reminder of what those good agricultural practices are.”
In his proclamation, Secretary Perdue notes farmers markets and other agricultural direct marketing outlets contribute approximately $9 billion each year to the U.S. economy and “serve as significant outlets by which small-to-medium, new and beginning, and veteran agricultural producers market agricultural products, generating revenue that supports the sustainability of family farms and the revitalization of rural communities nationwide.”