COLUMBIA – Everyday South Carolinians enjoy fresh locally grown produce, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) is continually working to make sure fresh fruit and vegetable food safety is a top priority.
In order to help farmers in this effort and to better serve consumers, the SCDA, in a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, now has a statewide Food Safety Coordinator, Weatherly Thomas. Thomas will mainly focus on helping interested farmers develop food safety plans for their farms and attaining Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) certifications.
“Having a Food Safety Coordinator to help farmers and growers have the tools necessary for becoming GAP/GHP certified is important not only for increasing food safety, but because it also creates more marketing opportunities for our farmers,” said South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers.
Many schools and other institutions that have a food service component often look for and require GAP/GHP certifications. Farmers that meet those standards are able to sell their produce to that growing market.
Participation in these certifications is voluntary. While assisting farmers with fresh fruit and vegetable food safety compliance, Thomas will be able to explain the requirements of safety-oriented record keeping. Thomas will also perform mock food safety audits and provide advice on how to improve food safety on the farm.
Prior to accepting the position as Food Safety Coordinator for the SCDA, Thomas served as the South Carolina Farm to School Midlands Regional Coordinator, where she also helped educate farmers regarding GAP/GHP requirements.
Farmers or growers interested in learning more about GAP/GHP can contact Weatherly Thomas at (803) 738-5937, (803) 737-4373 or firstname.lastname@example.org .