UMass Vegetable Winter School Offers Workshops for Farm Owners, Managers and Employees

onions
Onions drying at the Brigham Hill Community Farm in Grafton.

AMHERST, Mass. –  The University of Massachusetts Amherst is rolling out a new workshop series designed specifically for farm owners, managers and employees. UMass Vegetable Winter School kicks off on Jan. 10, 2017, with two main goals: to provide education that will help farmers with regulatory compliance and to improve efficiency and overall farm management.

This “one-stop shopping” option will allow farmers to learn about many of their regulatory needs at once. New regulations have come forward surrounding food safety, worker protection standards, employee law and nutrient management that require farmer outreach and education.

The seven-workshop series will provide up-to-date information on research and integrated pest management (IPM) practices that are important to vegetable growers. Other course topics include support for developing food safety and nutrient management plans, training employees in Worker Protection Standards, developing standard operating procedures compliant with regulations and preparing an employee handbook and a whole farm IPM plan. Leaving the course, each farmer will have filled out the paperwork and be prepared for a Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) audit. CQP is the mechanism through which the federal Food Safety Modernization Act will be regulated in Massachusetts and it is in the farmer’s benefit to be CQP-certified. Commonwealth Quality gives farmers improved market access to grocery store chains like Market Basket and Big Y.

Partners include the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, which is responsible for enforcing the agricultural regulations in the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided funds specifically for food safety education.

All workshops will be held at the Brigham Hill Community Farm in Grafton. Brigham Hill Community Farm is a nonprofit farm that engages volunteers to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to provide to those experiencing hunger.

Tuition is $475. Register online at regonline.com/vegwinterschool

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