Farmers Market Safety training ensures safe, secure shopping

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

On May 9, Crenshaw County Extension hosted a Farmers Market Safety Training class led by Bridegette Brannon, Food Safety & Quality Regional Extension Agent (REA), for sellers at the upcoming annual Crenshaw County Extension Farmers Market. The class, held inside the Tom Harbin Farm Center, was designed so farmers market participants could learn or familiarize themselves with the best practices for keeping their items fresh and safe from the farm to the market.

Brannon discussed food safety tips for farmers market participants, such as proper packaging, sanitizing, temperature control, labeling and storage processes. Brannon also touched on topics such as permitting and licensing, food safety inspections, recall procedures and more.

“Cleanliness is key to preventing food born illnesses,” Brannon said. “Making sure your hands are washed using the proper method before you touch any produce and keeping packing and storage areas clean and sanitized are imperative. Keeping your produce cool is going to maintain the quality and enhance the safety of your produce.”

Georgia Sasser has been selling produce at the farmers market for almost five years now. This year she will have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, peas, okra, eggplant, green beans and more.

“This is a good refresher for us and the networking is good,” Sasser said. “I started selling things at the farmers market partially because I wanted my bashful son-in-law to talk a little more. Now he talks more than any of us and we have been able to get the word out about our products.”

In addition to food safety, Calen Monroe, Farm and Agribusiness Management REA, provided tips on marketing and shared marketing strategies that can be applied to selling at the farmers market and beyond. She highlighted the importance of vendors networking with customers to build relationships and offered advice on how to create an engaging booth set up to attract customers.

In addition to learning about safety and marketing information, the class was enthusiastic to hear about improvements and plans for the upcoming farmers market season that include new misters in the market area to help keep everyone cool, an increase on senior vouchers from $30.00 to $50.00, and the Extension Agency’s new Veggie Bucks program.  

Veggie Bucks incentivizes children to learn about nutrition by providing them with the opportunity to play an interactive, fun game at the Extension booth and earn a $2 veggie buck  to purchase a fruit or vegetable from a participating vendor.

With the start of the farmers market season, local families have the perfect opportunity to come together and shop for fresh and safe produce, support the local economy and have fun. The farmers market Safety Training Class ensured that all participants have the knowledge to make the shopping experience safe and secure. The market will open every Monday starting June 5 so mark your calendars and be sure to visit!

For more information call the Crenshaw County Extension office at (334) 335-6312.