Free produce safety trainings available Feb. 5 and 8

BERRIEN COUNTY — A free training for produce growers that will teach them the latest safety will take place at various times. 

These courses are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Berrien County Extension 1737 Hillandale Road Benton Harbor and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8, at KVCC Food Innovation Center 224 E. Crosstown Kalamazoo. This course is offered free of charge and will satisfy the requirement as outlined in 112.22(c) of the Rule.

Upon completion of the course, participants will receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials to be able to present upon inspection if requested. This course is only required once — so if a person has have previously completed the training and received a certificate this training does not pertain to them. However, if they would like to send someone else from the farm to receive the training that is permitted.

To prepare for the training, the Berrien Conservation District has had a busy three months developing the Produce Safety Technician position for local fruit and vegetable growers, officials said.

The current Produce Safety Technician was able to gain a multitude of knowledge from various trainings and networking conferences. One of the trainings was held in Rochester, New York and certified Victoria Toney to be able to teach Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings across the state. These trainings satisfy the requirement for fruit and vegetable growers under the new Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. The courses are taught by Michigan State University educators, MDARD officials, and Produce Safety Technicians. Officials said that it is important to have all these people in the same room in case technical questions arise throughout the modules or during final discussion.

Pre-registration is required and can be completed via web at events.anr.msu.edu/2019WinterPSA/ or can be made by emailing the Produce Safety Technician at victoria.toney@macd.org.

Toney is available for technical assistance to all growers in southwest Michigan. Any questions related to farm food safety plans, produce safety, FSMA and compliance help, or general questions can be directed to her. People can stop into the Berrien Conservation District or call (269) 471-9111 extension 3 or by email. Her position requires her to maintain confidentiality and to help with educational resources for local produce growers, distributors, packing houses, farm market vendors, etc.

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