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    Food Safety Workshops for Local Growers

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob”.  Joining me today is PMA’s Director of Food Safety and Technology, Johnna Hepner, who many of you met in a post earlier this year. Welcome, Johnna. Locally grown is one of the hottest trends in food, as evidenced by its top ranking in the National Restaurant Association’s recent chef survey – but consumers also (rightfully) expect safe food. How challenging is food safety for small and locally-focused growers?

    Johnna:
    Julia, it can be challenging, but we want small and local growers to know that food safety isn’t insurmountable. Just recently, a partnership between PMA, Sysco Corporation and PrimusLabs began offering some much-needed produce food safety training to local growers across America. With that in mind, I’d like to welcome a special guest today: Rich Dachman, Sysco’s Vice President of Produce.  Welcome, Rich.

    Rich:
    Thank you, Johnna and Julia. It’s a pleasure to work with you all, and we’re excited about the value this workshop series will bring to everyone in the chain – from the grower to the consumer.

    Julia:
    Welcome, Rich. First, can you share with us what Sysco’s motivation was behind developing this training?
     
    Rich:
    Julia, this is part of Sysco’s sustainability commitment. It’s really all about offering our customers choices. They want local food, so our responsibility is to source local food that’s also been grown under safe growing and harvesting conditions. We chose PMA as our partner because PMA shares Sysco’s passion for helping local growers grow safe food.

    Julia:
    And Johnna, what was PMA’s motivation?

    Johnna:
    In previous posts you’ve talked about how PMA is committed to bringing real-world solutions to our industry’s food safety needs – that applies to all industry members, large and small. However, we know local growers in particular face a hard time accessing the information and resources they need. This local grower outreach is part of PMA’s overall food safety program, which also includes industry education, advocacy, knowledge and outreach.  

    Julia:
    So tell us a little bit more about the workshops.

    Johnna:
    Local growers, including PMA members and those interested in doing business with Sysco, can attend our one-day workshops, which are being held around the country. The workshops are designed to help growers understand current food safety demands, how to meet them and how to navigate food safety requirements. The sessions are led by PMA food safety experts with help from our friends at Sysco and PrimusLabs.com.

    Each workshop addresses our industry’s new reality of food safety mandates, what a food safety program should look like, and how to build a solid food safety program. Attendees also get tips from a number of third-party auditing organizations on how to prepare for GAP audits, and the steps they should follow after an audit. The workshops end with guidance on how to get started with their own food safety programs, and where to go for help if they need it.

    Rich:
    We’ve already had good success. More than 40 people attended the first workshop in Portland, Oregon, on August 11. That event featured Dr. Bob, Johnna Hepner, PrimusLabs.com Director of Food Safety Stacy Stoltenberg and myself – as well as a local grower, distributor and chef. It was remarkable to see the transition attendees went through – they went from being skeptical of our food safety requirements, to actually being excited to get back to the farm and get started.

    Johnna:
    As of this recording, we’ve also got workshops scheduled for October 13 in Orlando, November 10 in southern California, and January 18 in Cleveland. So, if you’re a small grower in those areas, you’ve got a fantastic resource coming to your backyard!

    Julia:
    Thank you, Rich and Johnna.

    Listeners, if you would like to attend one of these local grower food safety workshops, please contact PMA’s Solution Center staff by telephone at (302) 738-7100, or by email at solutionctr@pma.com. They will add you to the invitation list and make sure you get information on how to register.

    Thanks for joining us for this installment of Ask Dr. Bob, we’ll see you next time.

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