Hey everyone, this is David Cornette from Hindman Settlement School Grow Appalachia. Last night, our field coordinator Bobby Perkins and I attended a GAP training at the Knott County Agricultural Extension office. This training focuses on preventing food-borne illnesses and advocates safe agricultural practices at every step of production. GAP training is particularly useful for those of us who are going to take produce to market this year, in order to protect your consumers from illness as well as yourself from litigation in the unlikely event that an outbreak does occur.
While some markets require all vendors to complete this training, Knott County does not; however, it is still strongly encouraged. For those of you who couldn’t make the meeting, I’d like to share some of the key points that can help keep you and your family safe from viruses and bacteria that could infect your plants!
1. Prevention is the most effective strategy. It is difficult to eliminate the sources of food-borne illness once they are present. In fact, while some people may think that washing produce is enough, it actually does little to make the food safer and can, in fact, spread bacteria from infected produce to healthy produce, which increases the chance of disease spreading.
2. Soil testing can help you confirm the safety of your soil. Fortunately, the Knott County Extension office provides free soil testing all year long.
3. Fecal matter is the number one cause of foodborne illness. Because of this, you must exercise caution when using raw manure to fertilize your garden spot. Follow the 90/120 day rule: for plants that are in contact or close proximity to the ground, do not apply raw manure within 120 days of harvest; for plants that are above the soil, do not apply within 90 days of harvest.
4. On a similar note to the above point, be sure to wash your hands before going to work in the garden and before you handle any produce. Set up a handwashing station within reach of your garden and make sure that you (and anyone else who helps out in your garden) has clean hands before handling the plants.
5. If there is a flood, you should consider everything in your garden contaminated. I know, I know, it floods a lot and it would be pretty disappointing to lose an entire crop. And while it is your choice at the end of the day what to put into your own body, we can not recommend that you risk eating produce that has been flooded, and we certainly hope that you don’t take it to market and risk getting other people sick.
6. To avoid situations like a flooded garden, plan your garden spot carefully. Map it out before hand and be sure to note where your production areas will be in relation to water sources and other sources of contamination.
This is just a brief overview of some of the major points we took from last night’s training. If you want to learn more, you can find useful resources at: