Feb 09, 2021

Free workshops planned for produce growers

Posted Feb 09, 2021 1:05 PM

Webinars will help producers provide safe, healthy food to customers 

MANHATTAN – John and Freida Miller thought it was just good business to wash lettuce before putting it out for sale at Cheney Lake Produce, a business they’ve operated for the past 12 years. 

After attending a produce safety workshop hosted by the Kansas Department of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension, the Millers learned that there was a better way to assure the safety of produce once it got into the hands of consumers. 

There are no regulatory requirements to wash lettuce before selling it to consumers. So instead, the Millers began encouraging customers to wash lettuce once they got it home, which helps prevent the unintentional introduction of food pathogens during commercial washing. 

For the Millers, that was one of the lessons learned at a Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) training, which will again be offered in Kansas beginning in March. A full list of upcoming trainings is available online

K-State Research and Extension produce safety associate Cal Jamerson invited Miller and his son, Walter, to attend PSA training. “Cal is very helpful,” Miller said. “He comes from a farming background, so it doesn’t take long to connect. I appreciate that Cal can speak from experience when he’s leading training.” 

In addition to the changes in washing lettuce, Cheney Lake Produce also installed stainless steel cutting surfaces. 

“We try to keep the whole growing process clean and sterile, so we don’t have to get rid of anything or add anything,” Miller said. 

Jamerson called Miller “a great farmer…he has fantastic growing and post-harvest practices,” but noted that the Millers’ commitment is symbolic of many produce growers in Kansas. 

“I can say from firsthand experience that Kansas growers strive to grow and distribute safe produce,” Jamerson said. 

Londa Nwadike, an extension associate professor of food safety who has a dual appointment in Kansas and Missouri, said the upcoming produce safety training sessions are available online at no- or low-cost, but registration is required. 

Upcoming webinars include: 

Feb. 24 or April 21 (3-5 p.m.) – Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) food safety plan.

March 5 (noon to 1 p.m.) – Kansas Produce Safety update.

March 18 and 25 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) – Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Safety Alliance training.

March 24 (6-7 p.m.) – Wildlife control for produce growers.

May 10 (3-5 p.m.) – Introduction to produce safety and post-harvest handling. 

In addition to the free webinars, K-State Research and Extension and the KDA can provide an On Farm Readiness Review to produce growers for free, according to Nwadike. K-State Research and Extension also continues to provide free water testing to produce growers and currently has cost-share funding for growers interested in GAPs certification. 

“We can also provide general technical assistance in produce safety to growers,” Nwadike said. 

The workshops are available to produce growers because of funding from various sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; KDA and the Food and Drug Administration; and KDA specialty crop block grants. 

“Grower education is a team effort, reflecting a partnership with the Produce Safety Alliance and K-State Research and Extension that results in On-Farm Readiness Reviews and other quality educational programs,” said Brad McMillan, a KDA food, drug, lodging surveyor. 

“These efforts have helped hard-working produce growers understand the new produce safety rule and incorporate the new requirements into their production system to ensure they are providing safe, healthful food for consumers.” 

For more information about produce safety workshops in Kansas or Missouri, interested persons may contact Nwadike at 913-307-7391 or [email protected]