Called the Local Farmer Food Safety Initiative, the program has been developed by PrimusLabs and powered by California-based data management company Azzule Systems, said Debra Garrison, director of business development for PrimusLabs, Santa Maria, Calif
“The really important piece in all of this is for the buyers,” she said.
Retailers can sign up with the program as a procurer and stipulate what steps that growers must complete before they can be eligible to the supply the buyers. The mobile app allows buyers to search by commodity, farm or distance to find suppliers, she said.
The program, available for a cost to growers of $150 per year, is designed to be more affordable to very small local growers who may not be able to initially afford a $1,500 third party audit sometimes demanded by retailers.
The program helps local growers (those farmers who market their produce within a 275 mile radius of their operation) connect with university extension resources, state departments of agriculture and other farm organizations to increase access to food safety education, Garrison said. So far, PrimusLabs has worked with university and state department of agriculture officials in nine states and asked them to help train growers in the program. Some growers and buyers have already signed on to the program, she said. State and university food safety experts will set their own training fees for the program, she said.
The five-step program helps local growers complete food safety implementation, Garrison said.
The steps are:
- attend a local farmer food safety training course;
- develop a personalized food safety plan manual;
- conduct a self assessment;
- complete a personalized food safety plan verification; and
- complete a third party certified audit.
Participating growers will receive training by university extension staff and other organizations across the U.S., and will have the ability to document their progress on the Local Farmer website and Progress Tracker mobile application, according to a news release. The website will allow growers to list all the details of their operation, including contact information, crops, acreage and seasons of production. As growers undergo training, growers can update their profile and show progress on the five-step process.