Health Dept. Making It Easier for Food Producers to Sell

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - Selling locally grown produce used to be an extensive process in Callaway County. Producers were not able to take their vegetables and fruits from their gardens directly to a business to sell. Now the Callaway County Health Department is working with growers hand in hand and one health specialist said the department is letting producers know they have the ability to sell. 

The Callaway County Health Department held its first meeting Tuesday on how to sell and buy produce. 

"Producers are getting to be more and more prevalent throughout the county and throughout the community, and what we're trying to do is get information out to them on how to sell to retails," Kent Wood, environmental public health specialist said. 

"They don't have to fill out a form, they don't have to take a test, the only time the county would require a test is if the producers are preparing the food," Wood said. 

Prepared food is food that is sliced or cut in any way. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' new food code is allowing counties throughout the state to be more open with producers. Wood said the older documents didn't make it clear for what producers could and could not do. 

Hobby farmer Kevin Wilkerson said he's looking to start a green house and the informational meeting was beneficial.   

"We're looking to start selling produce, and if we get a chance to know what we're buying, it be nice to know who those people are. They are local and they talked to county health," Wilkerson said. "We know the food is safer to use and doesn't have any contaminants on it."

President of the Fulton Farmers Market Joan Schwede said the weather is not affecting vendors, but it is affecting harvest season. 

"Winter started so early this year, it was so cold, all our spinach and lettuce died," Schwede said. "Good agriculture practices (GAP) are important and you don't have to be certified GAP to sell produce."

The FDA states if you make more than $25,000 selling produce you must become certified GAP by passing a test and farm inspection.

The Callaway County Health Department said the most common misconceptions are you cannot purchase from an individual if you are a retail establishment, or cannot sell to a retail establishment because they have to purchase from a distributor such as Sysco, US Foods, etc.