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CFSA's Grower's Toolbox
Dear Nahid,

Farmers markets across the Carolinas are moving toward the main growing season, many still accepting applications for new vendors. Though there is never a true downtime in farming, winter encourages planning and review. 

This month’s Expert Tip encourages farmer vendors and markets themselves to consider food safety as an integral part of their process and design.  

National media coverage on foodborne disease outbreaks alerts all produce buyers about the potential hidden dangers of microbes on fresh produce and other market products. Area markets require each vendor to adhere to state health laws and acquire all necessary permits, so precautions are already being taken. However, assessing food safety risks is an ongoing responsibility for purveyors of fresh produce and demonstrating to customers that their health and safety is a top priority will continue to increase their loyalty to your market stand.

Beyond that, we're sharing a few new resources - a platform to help keep all your food safety T's crossed and I's dotted, a few new guides by the Organic Farming Research Foundation - oodles of cost-share opportunities to make GAP certification more accessible, as well as one for completing water analysis on your farm. And just for fun, here are some resources on grafting tomatoes and growing tomatoes in high tunnels if that's part of your production.

Enjoy field prep and spending time in your greenhouses!


Karen McSwain, CFSA's Director of Farm Services and Food Systems

PS - Did you lose crops, livestock, equipment, or buildings in last year's hurricanes? There's still time to apply for a low-interest loan through CFSA's RESEED Recovery Fund.

In a nutshell, you can apply for any amount from $2,500 to $10,000, and the term of the loan is up to one year at 1% interest. Repayment of the loan is due in one lump sum at the end of the one-year term.

Examples of what RESEED loans can be used for:

  • Replacing damaged plants and livestock.
  • Repairing infrastructure and equipment.
  • Serving as bridge loans for future insurance payments or grants. 
Don't hesitate to apply, as applications will be received on a first-come-first-serve basis until March 31, 2019. ​


The personal nature of local, sustainable farmers markets allows customers an opportunity to ask questions about growing practices—trust is built between buyer and seller. The short supply chain—less distance between “farm and fork”—increases consumer confidence in the quality and safety in the produce sold at farmers markets.

The more foodborne disease outbreaks that occur, however, and the more media coverage those outbreaks get, the more skepticism farmers may receive from customers. I’ve seen this first-hand. Last year, when the romaine lettuce recall was nearing its end, I had a new farmers market customer comment on the current dangers of lettuce. Though her friend had expressed interest in my Salanova mix (I wasn’t selling romaine), my explanation of the variety I had - and the fact it had been grown 30 miles from where we stood - did nothing to change her attitude. Neither potential customer bought lettuce from me. I started to wonder then how I could best educate farmers market customers about food safety practices so that needless anxiety didn’t spread.

National foodborne disease outbreaks threaten our local economies when customers cannot parse out how risks are assessed or addressed.

What do studies show? 
Continue reading Chloe's Expert Tip to find out.

Did you know that we've been writing Expert Tips for nearly a decade?
Don't miss our
Expert Tip index!

Cost-Share Opportunity for GAP Audits

CFSA is offering GAP certification assistance providing a reimbursed cost share for growers who underwent a USDA GAP audit in 2018 to growers who participated in the Local Produce Safety Initiative (LPSI). The program provides up to $900 for first-time GAP certification or $300 for second or third-year recertification for qualifying farms. To qualify, you must:  

  1. Be a current member of CFSA. 
  2. Be a farm located in North Carolina. 
  3. Must have successfully passed a first-, second-, or third-year GAP audit.
  4. Have not received cost-share funds from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s GAP Certification Assistance Program covering costs for your 2018 audit. 

Funds will be distributed once CFSA receives the application and all supporting documentation on a first-come-first-serve basis. Funds are limited. Supporting documentation includes: 

  • IRS W-9 Form for your business.
  • Audit Report and/or GAP Certificate
  • Proof of Payment to NCDA AMS for audit services provided.
Interested? Download and fill-out a GAP Cost-Share Application!
NCDA also wants to help with cost sharing GAP certification...
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has announced the launch (download the press release) of their 2019 Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification Assistance Program.

This is a cost-share program to help farmers pay for the costs associated with obtaining a GAP audit. Funds are limited and available only on a first-come-first-serve basis. Download an application for 2019 (PDF).
New Guides: Reduce Risks & Increase Productivity



Responding to the needs of farmers and ranchers across the country, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) in cooperation with USDA-Risk Management Agency, has developed two informative new guidebooks on how organic and transitioning growers can manage on-farm risk through crop insurance programs and sound soil health management.

New Tool: PROduce Food Safety Online

The Local Produce Safety Initiative now offers growers and food hubs a food safety program and traceability management tool--an online, cloud-based platform. Growers will benefit from the PROduce Food Safety Online, as it offers:
Food Safety Program Management

  • Management of all Food Safety Program documentation.
  • Optimize your recordkeeping requirements.
  • Calendar reminders for when important components of your program need attention, including scheduling your annual audit.
  • Confidence in corrective and preventive action implementation risk mitigation. CFSA’s Local Produce Safety Initiative team will provide a risk mitigation review.
  • Buyer direct access to select Food Safety Program documentation. 
  • Gain visibility to expand your markets.
For more information, including this platform may help with compliance with buyers' traceability requirements, download the flyer.
Cost-Share Programs for Water Analysis in NC & SC

Both departments of agriculture have water analysis cost-share programs. These programs help farmers to pay for water quality testing, which is required by GAP auditors, for irrigation and/or packing house wash water. The testing must go to a certified laboratory and test the quantitative presence of generic E. coli bacteria.
The cost share is for up to $1,000.00 and is on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Photo by The Pond & Lake Connection


Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | Florence, SC

High Tunnel Construction Workshop
Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2019 | Denmark, SC

24th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour
Saturday, Apr. 27 - Sunday, Apr. 28, 2019 | Piedmont Region, NC


Want more? Stay abreast with CFSA events by subscribing to our events-only monthly digest, The Training Ground.
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The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from a farmer who shares your values – and we can’t do it without you. Together we are building a regional food system that is good for consumers, good for growers, and good for the land.
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