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MDA winter workshops will help growers "think spring"

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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Come January, most Minnesotans are really ready to "think spring". The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is helping that cause by offering two great workshops on Jan. 12, 2012 at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud (formerly the St. Cloud Civic Center).

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Honey Bees and Beekeeping will be a definite attraction for people interested in keeping bees or just wanting to learn more about these fascinating creatures. Participants will learn about bees, the benefits they provide to farms and gardens, and the challenges they face. Topics will include attracting bees, bee biology, the cost of raising bees, locating your apiary, local ordinances, equipment suppliers, pollination, honey production and ethics. The workshop will be taught by master beekeepers Bob Sitko and JoAnne Sabin of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association. This half day session runs from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. and registration costs $25.

Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification: Making it Work on Real Vegetable Farms is for vegetable growers. What happens after harvest can have a huge impact on produce quality and food safety. As the demand for local foods has exploded in the last five years, so have buyers' expectations for clean produce that also stores well. Restaurants, food service providers, and other institutional buyers have also begun demanding food safety assurances. Experienced vegetable grower/marketer Chris Blanchard will teach the post-harvest handling practices and methods he and his coworkers developed and use at Rock Spring Farm near Decorah, IA. Participants will learn efficient, time-saving ways to meet the documentation and record-keeping requirements of the GAP audit process in a way that flows with other farm work. This full day session runs from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Registration costs $40.

Registration materials are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/about/divisions/amd.aspx or by calling 651-201-6012.

A third workshop about selling and marketing meat will be offered in the same location by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. This session is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and costs $40 for the first person and $30 for additional people from the same farm operation. The meat workshop brochure is available at www.misa.umn.edu or by calling 800-909-6472.

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