Human Interest

The scenario is familiar to anyone who does the grocery shopping: You walk into the store, looking for fresh produce. Noting that your avocados are rock hard, your bananas green, you wonder where on Earth the fruit is from.

Peru, perhaps, or Brazil. China, maybe?

It seems often that only a small proportion of the produce we consume comes from within our national borders — much less from within the state.

Someone is working on the problem for some of the area’s largest grocers, restaurants and schools.

For the past several months, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, along with Yavapai County Community Health Services, the Verde Valley Agriculture Coalition, the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative, the Yavapai County Board of Health, YCCHS Food Safety Industry Council and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension have been looking at ways to get locally grown fruits and vegetables onto plates.

Their solution is the Farm to Fork program.

“YCCHS worked with local retail food and agricultural stakeholders to develop new detailed guidelines that allow for the procurement of locally-grown produce,” YCBS Public Information Officer David McAtee stated June 1. “This guidance informs certified kitchen managers how they can satisfy the food code’s “approved source” requirement when receiving food grown without participation in a farm food safety certification program.”

According to McAtee, kitchen managers are required little to participate in Farm to Fork. They must ensure that their source farmers have “completed a comprehensive, good handling and agricultural practices curriculum” — one that may be satisfied by a one-day course offered by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Once certified, kitchen managers or owners must maintain records indicating: Farm items, amounts, the dates harvested and harvest locations, dates received and the names of the farms or responsible growers.

“The intent of this guidance is to increase the availability and promote the safe use of healthy, locally-grown produce in certified kitchens in Yavapai County,” McAtee continued. “The new guidance provides kitchen managers with information that enables them to verify food safety practices of food grown outside of a third-party certification program.”

Farm to Fork provides a list of options that growers can provide to show their food safety practices in three areas: “On-farm food safety education, planning and traceability.” Additional guidance includes a list of local contacts and resources to assist growers with their food issues.

“The popularity of locally-grown produce in Yavapai County inspired our department to collaborate with retail food and agricultural stakeholders and further two of our health objectives — promoting locally-grown, nutritious foods and preventing food-borne illness,” YCCHS Director Stephen Tullos stated. “While there are numerous benefits to the overall public health, this collaboration has resulted in an approved method for getting the freshest food to many of our favorite places to eat.”


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