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Workshop to assist vegetable farmers

Understanding food safety standards and documenting on-farm food safety procedures is important for farmers' risk reduction against foodborne illness outbreaks and to remain competitive in today's fresh and local food marketplace. It is becoming more common for buyers to require specialty crop growers to show proof of a Food Safety Plan for their farm.

The Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace of Little Falls will host a farmer education event for produce (fruit and vegetable) and other specialty crop farmers at Central Lakes College in Brainerd from 3-7 p.m. June 22, 501 W. College Drive, Brainerd.

The event is designed to help farmers learn good agricultural practices concepts and complete their farm's food safety plan.

Michele Schermann from the University of Minnesota's On-Farm Food Safety Team will present each section of the University's food safety plan template, and local 4-H and FFA students will help each farmer transfer their information into the electronic template. Farmers will complete each section, including standard operating procedures, log sheets for employee training, manure handling, recall processes, and much more.

If available, farmers should bring their farm maps, water tests, compost records, logs or checklists used to document their current procedures. This workshop is sponsored by Region Five Development Commission, Central Lakes College, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, and North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE).

The cost is $20 per farm and advance registration is required to reserve a computer in the lab. Farmers can request a paper or electronic template when they register in order to expedite the process.

To register, email with name, farm name, mailing address, email, phone number, number of participants and number of computers needed or if people will be bringing their own. A scanner and printer will be available to add maps, etc. into the electronic plan or make copies.

Sprout MN is a food hub and indoor marketplace located in Brainerd and Little Falls. The hub manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products from over 40 local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand. Currently, Sprout coordinates Farm-to-School for six central Minnesota school districts, large-volume wholesale sales for premiere and resort restaurants, and a Community Supported Agriculture program.

The marketplace is under construction in the former Crestliner building in Little Falls (609 13th Ave.) and currently provides local producers and buyers technical assistance on Good Agricultural Practices, food safety, licensing, and post-harvest handling. The indoor farmers' market is scheduled to open in the autumn of 2015.

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