When a Loudon County businesswoman needed some help to make sure her food was safe for consumers and she had the needed knowledge on how to increase her business, she knew just where to look.
“The Loudoun County Extension Office and Virginia Cooperative Extension have been invaluable to us in many ways as we’ve grown our business,” said a local greenhouse owner. “At one of the first classes I attended they talked a lot about GAP, or Good Agricultural Practice. As a food consumer, I was happy to find out all that’s involved in food safety.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension is playing an important role in keeping the food supply safe for consumers, as well as viable for businesses throughout the commonwealth.
The need for food safety regulation and training has increased with the amended Food Safety Modernization Act and the rise in popularity and consumption of fresh local foods.
The grower worked with Extension Specialists Beth Sastre-Flores, Maria Sohail, and Amber Vallotton to develop her company’s food safety best practices and will continue to work with them to prepare for not just Good Agricultural Practices certification, but also a Harmonized GAP audit.
“They’re all wonderful and willing to go the extra mile. Beth, Maria, and Amber, we can’t thank you enough!” the grower said.
In 2015 Extension was integral in promoting professional development, assessing community needs, and networking within communities to develop training strategies. A variety of food safety education activities geared towards commercial audiences were offered locally. Workshops included a Farmers Market Vendor Tune-up workshop, a presentation on safe food preparation at a farmers market annual meeting, a pH testing workshop, two ServSafe Manager courses, on-site evaluations of farms and kitchen operations, and consulting. Additional education programs to be offered in 2016 include food safety and direct marketing workshops for growers, farmers market food safety workshops, ServSafe, and a drinking water clinic.
Another local grower also looks to Extension for valuable training and support as a business person.
“I look forward to implementing a comprehensive plan of action for my farm/greenhouse. Thank you again for your time and assistance, we are committed to the success of this program and appreciate your help,” he said.