Plan, Produce, Profit offered at SWEREC

By Eric Mclaurin, 05/25/23 8:37 PM
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Law Center facilitated a workshop at the Southwest Research and Extension Center on Tuesday May 23rd. The theme was Plan. Produce. Profit. Not only did the workshop give techniques as to how to preserve food but also how to protect from potential liability by following proper procedures.
The contact person for the workshop was Rusty Rumley, a member of the National Agricultural Law Center. The aim was for workshop participants to learn how to operate under the Arkansas Food Freedom Act for selling homemade food items to the public. Attendees were eligible to receive a free pH meter for producing food products that need pH testing.
The funding for the workshop was by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture through the Speciality Crop Block Grant Program.
After registration and a welcome by Harrison Pittman, Dr. Bryan Mader talked about family and consumer science programs. Jeff Jackson, R.S. and Dr. Mader together presented the Arkansas Food Freedom Act and Rusty Rumley discussed food liability. Following this was creating and processing value-added food products in Arkansas by Dr. Renee Threlfall.
A lunch of Mexican food was provided and then Dr  Amanda Philyaw Perez discussed manufacturing opportunities in Arkansas and John Swenson Food Manufacturing in Arkansas: Arkansas Food Innovation Center. The last section was a video demonstration of a pH meter was shown with pH meters being given to the participants at the end.
 The workshop covered what foods were allowed and which foods weren’t under the Act. While jams are allowed because of the high sugar content those with sugar substitutes are not and only certain fruits are allowed in jellies. Jalapeno jellies are not allowed. Recipes are are also important as is labelling.
Where the ingredients come from is also important. Elderberries and foraged food carry risks. With foraged food it is important to know where it came from and if any chemicals were sprayed on them.
Labelling and record keeping best involves check-marking jars being sealed and where the jar was stored. Best by or use by dates are not required – they are simply a marketing tool.
Liability not only covered labelling and following proper procedures in food preparation but also the value of and how to set up a LLC.
Training and certifications are also important and it helps to keep the records. Crossing state lines with the products is challenging as it is required to comply with the other state’s regulations and it falls under federal jurisdiction as interstate commerce.
The workshop stressed the need to stay on good terms with the neighbors, spouse, competitors and employees as they can all cause problems if unhappy.
With fruits and vegetables and their products jurisdiction falls under the FDA while meats are covered under the USDA.