Region 8 Vegetable Farmers Part of New USDA-Approved Project

JULY 10, 2006 - Posted at 2:46 p.m. CDT

FORREST CITY, AR - Six Arkansas vegetable farms are hoping to earn passing grades from USDA inspectors this week.  If they do, new markets should open for them soon.

In October, the USDA awarded a $265,000 grant to the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation to coordinate the current project.  That non-profit group picked six top farmers, who formed Forrest City-based American Heartland Produce, Inc.

The farmers have been trained based on the USDA's audit verification program, a nationwide initiative that verifies whether the FDA's food safety guidelines are being followed.  If the six Arkansas vegetables farms pass inspection, they get a one-year certificate and can start selling produce with the "American Heartland" logo.

American Heartland wants to become synonymous with vegetables the way Sunkist is with oranges.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)