In response to the uncertainty of how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact farmers’ markets this summer, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service continues to work with growers to help them qualify for various market opportunities.
One opportunity is for New Mexico growers to provide fresh vegetables and fruit for public school meals through the state’s Farm to School program.
“There are requirements that they must meet to qualify for the program,” said Bonnie Hopkins, NMSU Extension agricultural agent in San Juan County. “One is that the farmer has performed a food safety risk assessment of their farm.”
NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences provides training in the risk assessment process.
With the social distancing order from state officials during the coronavirus outbreak, the delivery of the on-farm and classroom training was changed to webinars and online self-study courses.
“We are presenting the first two tiers of the food safety training virtually to help farmers qualify as vendors to sell produce to public schools,” said John Garlisch, NMSU Extension agricultural agent in Bernalillo County.
“We have taken the information they would have received during an on-farm training and distilled it down to digestible bites for farmers who have never taken food safety training,” Garlisch said.
“This training is proactive,” Hopkins said. “It provides farmers with an awareness of good practices and the tools to conduct an assessment to ensure they are providing safe food.”
The online training program – a first-of-its-kind delivery for New Mexico farmers – is a collaboration between Garlisch, Hopkins, Denise Miller of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association and Valerie Smith of La Monañita Coop.
The webinar and self-study program is provided free to New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association members. Association membership is $25, and scholarships are available.
For more information about the training, click here.
Author: Jane Moorman – NMSU
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