Portal helps farmers with food safety

Published 8:54 am Thursday, September 29, 2022

Farmers have a lot on their plates when it comes to staying informed about food safety regulations and marketing their products, and a new online portal aims to ease some of that burden.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently launched the Virginia Produce Safety Grower Portal for Virginia’s fruit and vegetable farmers. A free service, the portal acts as a one-stop shop for farmers to access VDACS’ produce safety and marketing programs.

“The Virginia Produce Safety Grower Portal allows Virginia produce farmers to update farm registration information, obtain educational data and print a certificate of registration that features the newly designed Virginia Grown logo,” said Joseph Guthrie, VDACS commissioner. “Farm information will be shared with the Virginia Grown program as a way to integrate both the regulatory and marketing and promotions function of the agency.”

Virginia farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold produce that will be sold to consumers are encouraged to register their business on the VDACS Produce Safety Program’s online portal. Growers can create an account and complete the registration process at producesafety.vdacs.virginia.gov.

This registration allows VDACS to determine which farms and businesses are subject to or exempt from the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Part 112. It also provides farmers with technical assistance and education for meeting those requirements. The agency also can keep farmers informed of any new changes in regulations.

While the portal will help farms and businesses comply with food safety requirements, it also will help them expand marketing opportunities and “alert consumers and others interested in purchasing local produce,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

After registering, farmers are automatically enrolled in Virginia Grown, a VDACS program that promotes fresh, local products to consumers and industry buyers.

“The new portal will make it easier for Virginia produce growers to register with the Virginia Grown program, thereby expanding its list of the local Virginia farms,” Banks explained. “It will help consumers and other buyers identify more sources of locally grown fruits and vegetables.”

In addition to marketing materials and resources available to farmers, Virginia Grown has a searchable directory that allows consumers to find participating farms and businesses, farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture operations.