ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Sanitation on farms is important for farmers and food producers seeking the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. This certification is given to farms (food producers) that adhere to food safety standards. These standards are outlined in the Food and Drug Administration’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
Since COVID-19 placed a strain on food supply chains throughout Alabama, prospective buyers are more likely to do business with producers who are GAP certified. With that in mind, many small farmers and producers in Alabama seek GAP certification. This certification indicates that food safety is a priority in their operations. One way to adhere to standards is by installing handwashing stations.
Funding to Support Farmers
In the spring of 2021, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s home grounds team at Alabama A&M University (AAMU) received funding from Delaware State University’s Cooperative Extension Program. The funds, provided by the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, are used to reduce COVID-related disruptions among food suppliers served by 1890 land-grant institutions.
To fulfill project objectives, Alabama Extension at AAMU purchased 15 handwashing stations that are critical to securing GAP certification. Workers on small farms and in farm packaging and processing areas use these stations to ensure food safety when heading to local markets. Workers and consumers also use these stations at u-pick farms.
“Sanitation is critical to the safety of our food systems,” said Rudy Pacumbaba, an Alabama Extension specialist that leads the AAMU home grounds team. “These handwashing stations are one step toward creating a more stable and secure food supply chain in Alabama.”
The home grounds team delivered the first handwashing station in May 2022 to Booker Farms, LLC in Toney, Alabama. J. D. Booker, a veteran of the Vietnam War, owns and operates the farm. Booker Farms is part of the At-Ease Veteran Therapy Farmer program that provides agricultural therapy, training and farmland improvement education to veterans. The farm uses the handwashing station as part of its u-pick operation.
The second handwashing station was delivered to LouAllen Farms in Lawrence County. Larry and Bonita LouAllen, long-time local farmers, own and operate this small farm that specializes in strawberry, peach and nursery crop production. LouAllen Farms uses its handwashing station in u-pick sanitation operations and in its processing area as well.
The home grounds team will deliver additional handwashing stations to Alabama farmers later this year. To learn more about this project, contact Pacumbaba at (256) 372-4266.