RCBI’s Sprouting Farms achieves USDA certification

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this month certified that RCBI’s Sprouting Farms in Summers County adheres to stringent food production safety standards recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

This recognition acknowledges that Sprouting Farms staff members, volunteers and apprentices follow USDA best practices in cultivating, harvesting and storing fruits and vegetables grown on an 82-acre farm near Talcott. The industry recognized guidelines reduce the risk of microbial food contamination and other safety hazards.

“GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification is required for most farms that want to sell to the wholesale market,” said Bill Woodrum, director of Agricultural Innovations at the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), which manages the farm incubator and teaching facility. “If you want to become a supplier for large food distributors or grocery retailers such as Walmart or Kroger, GAP certification is crucial.”

Fritz Boettner, project director of Sprouting Farms, spearheaded the effort to establish the procedures and recordkeeping systems that must be in place before obtaining the USDA’s safety seal of approval.

“This important milestone for Sprouting Farms is the result of a lot of hard work in a few short months,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI director & CEO. “We are very fortunate to have a great team on the ground in Summers County who achieved certification at all three levels during its very first audit.”

Woodrum emphasized the importance of this certification for Sprouting Farms apprentices who are learning agricultural best practices during their tenures. “We’re educating our apprentices to own and operate their own farms,” Woodrum said. “It’s important for them to work on a GAP-certified farm so they learn how to implement the best practices that lead to USDA certification.”

Sprouting Farms is a partnership between RCBI, Downstream Strategies and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. The initiative is made possible through the financial support of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER initiative, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and The One Foundation.

For more information on Sprouting Farms, visit www.sproutingfarms.org or contact RCBI’s Bill Woodrum at 304.781.1670.