At the start of each year, we gather our partner farmers and producers for an annual meeting. While we see and talk with many of our growers on a weekly basis, our annual meeting gives us the opportunity to discuss broader issues as a group, including trends and observations in the wholesale marketplace, updates in food safety, and strategies for future growth. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to gain helpful feedback from our most valuable stakeholders.
Last week, 30 of our partner farmers gathered in Charlottesville for a day-long training and planning session. Local Food Hub staff discussed product needs and expectations for the year ahead, including specific produce needs for our direct-to-consumer Fresh Farmacy and Farm to Workplace programs.
Most importantly, Professor and Extension Specialist Laura Strawn conducted an abridged food safety training in anticipation of a mandatory food safety training coming this fall, which is required by new federal regulations. Professor Strawn covered the ins and outs of the new federal regulations, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and helped our partner farms understand exemptions under this new law. She walked through best practices for water quality, land management, and product handling, and taught methods for identifying and rectifying potential threats to food safety. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch featuring products grown by many of the meeting attendees, and had time to chat informally and catch up with our growers.
We value this time each year when we have the opportunity to all be in the same room together. With many exciting things on the horizon for 2016, we look forward to working closely with our partner farms to continue to offer you the best locally grown products.