West Virginia food producers and farmers will be eligible for a new step-by-step food safety program from West Virginia University Extension Service thanks to a $95,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The West Virginia Food Safety Training Program will provide training to increase awareness and application of food safety standards. Additionally, farmers will gain access to skill building workshops, educational resources and expert support to help them adhere to regulations.
According to WVU Extension Service Agricultural Economics Specialist Doolarie Singh-Knights, the real difference comes from the support available to farmers every step of the way, from planning and planting to harvesting and selling.
Singh-Knights says that an added benefit of the program is the localized approach made possible through the WVU Extension Service and its partners at the West Virginia State University Extension Service and West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
“While we have had such trainings in the past, these trainings haven’t been offered consistently or customized to meet our state’s specific needs,” said Singh-Knights. “Through this partnership we can tailor national food safety training programs specifically for West Virginia producers and offer mentoring and follow-up support anywhere in the state — it’s learning by doing and it yields results.”
The program unfolds in stages. First, the state’s producers learn best management practices and how to incorporate them into daily farm activities and future farm plans. Next, they learn recording keeping and documentation best practices using new food safety software and mobile apps.
Upon completing the course, producers receive a certificate to display in store fronts or farmers market stalls, to help communicate to their customers their commitment to food safety.
The program is a win-win for producers and consumers alike, explained Singh-Knights.
“By marketing safe foods, growers can be confident they’re able to offer a quality product, and consumers can purchase local fruits, vegetables and other products knowing they are from a trained, trusted, local farmer,” she said.
The WVU Extension Service provides educational opportunities to local communities through offices in all 55 West Virginia counties. WVU Extension Service’s programs are accomplished in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, civic groups and governmental organizations statewide and throughout the nation.
To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit www.ext.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.
The grant was made in conjunction with “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University”. The $1 billion fundraising effort being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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