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2021 Grower Questionnaire open from MDA and upcoming educational offerings

Guest contributors, Lebo Moore and Alexandra Cortes, Produce Safety Program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Did you know that the most common reported sales outlet for produce farmers in Minnesota is on-farm markets? Or that the most frequently reported crop grown is the tomato, followed by winter squash?  We’ve learned these things about our local produce sector through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Produce Safety Program’s annual Grower Questionnaire. 

The 2021 questionnaire has just been released

The annual Grower Questionnaire is designed as a tool to confirm your farm’s status per the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR). The questionnaire asks basic information about your products, average sales ranges, and sales outlets. After receiving your completed questionnaire, the Produce Safety Program will provide you customized follow-up information about whether your farm is excluded, eligible for an exemption, or covered by the rule – and share details about what that means for your business during the coming growing season. 

What else can the questionnaire do?

The aggregate data from the questionnaire can help inform our collective understanding of the trends, needs, and economic contributions of produce farms in our state. For example, current data suggests that Sherburne, Washington and Dakota counties are leading the state in total produce sales. Will that stay true as more farms contribute their sales data? We also know that 77 farms currently report selling to schools. Will new funding from MDA for farm to school programs have a direct impact on creating new markets for farmers? We’ll be able to track this data in part by reviewing changes in the sales outlets that growers report on the questionnaire. 

This aggregate data is only as accurate and as useful as the responses we receive. Our program has repeatedly heard from Minnesota growers who wish there were greater appreciation and support for the produce farms in our state. By filling out the Grower Questionnaire, you can help us better share and support the important contributions you make. Keep an eye out for our 2020 Annual Produce Farm Inventory Report, to be released in January. This report will be packed with information we’ve learned about produce farming in Minnesota from last year’s (2020) Grower Questionnaire responses, along with stories and reports from produce growers and produce organizations around the state. 

Produce Safety Rule Grower Trainings

More than 700 people in Minnesota have attended a FSMA Produce Safety Rule Grower Training in the past three years. You can join them by registering now for trainings taking place January – March. These trainings, which are co-led by produce farmers, University of Minnesota Extension, and the MDA Produce Safety Program, are being held 100% virtually due to COVID-19. 

January 12 & 13, 2021

Tuesday & Wednesday
8:45am – 1:00pm both days
Joan Olson, Prairie Drifter Farm

February 9, 2021

8:45am – 5:00pm
Sara George, D & S Gardens

March 13, 2021

8:45am – 5:00pm
Jane Jewett, WillowSedge Farm
David Abazs, Round River Farm 

Training attendees will learn food safety practices, Produce Safety Rule requirements, and answers to questions about the rule. Farms that are covered by the Produce Safety Rule are required to have at least one supervisor or responsible party from your farm complete a training that uses FDA-recognized curriculum (as this one does) or equivalent. However, all produce farmers are welcome to attend. Farms that have had an individual attend a PSR training or certificate-bearing GAPs training from Extension will receive additional consideration for future produce safety related funding opportunities from the Produce Safety Program.

Register for training and find additional information on what to expect on the MDA website. 

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