This was the question posed to a group of eight students gathered for an April 11 session of the San Miguel Basin Colorado State University Extension’s 2011 Building Farmers class at Norwood’s Lone Cone Building. New and existing farmers from Paradox to Telluride were participating in the eight-week program to learn the business of farming. Tonight they were watching a live webinar out of Ft. Collins on food safety and regulations.
So what do all those fruits and vegetables have in common? “They all grow well in Colorado. They’re also commonly consumed raw,” said the presenter. And because they are consumed ray, “we are in a fight with micro-organisms for our best fresh produce.”
She went on to discuss the best practices farmers should use when harvesting, producing and selling their products – a good part of which involves educating the consumer. Class handouts provided guidelines to washing fresh produce, home-producing chicken eggs, and farmers’ market shopping tips. There was even a suggestion that farmers’ market vendors provide hand washing stations for their customers.
Did you know that the best time to wash produce is right before its use? Or that apples, tomatoes and melons produce ethylene gas and should be stored away from other produce?
Food safety was just one of the subjects covered in this spring’s eight-week Farmers Teaching Farmers program, which culminated in a presentation of the students’ business plans on May 2. Other topics included “Taking the First Steps,” “Planning and Marketing,” “Introduction to Local Resources,” “Marketing and Labor,” “Budgeting and Record Keeping,” and a “Farm Production Panel.” The program is meant to provide existing and aspiring farmers with tools and ideas to refine and enhance their business management production and marketing skills. Each session had built-in social time, complete with a catered dinner, so that participants – many of them current Norwood Farmers Market vendors – could network and compare personal experiences. And by having regional farmers present at the classes, students benefitted by hearing real stories about their hands-on success in the farming business.
With “building capacity, building community,” as its motto, the CSU Extension’s Building Farmers class fits right in to their recent efforts to address food security issues and the recent explosion of interest in home gardening and food production.
To find out more about future Building Farmers sessions, visit www.ext.colostate.edu or call the Norwood Extension office at 970/327-4393.