By Billy Mitchell, NFU FSMA Training Coordinator
One of the many lessons I’ve learned, or I should say re-learned, over the past year is how important titles can be. I’ve gone from searching “15-minute yoga” on YouTube to the more specific “15-minute Zoom fatigue yoga.” It may be mostly the same content, but if “Zoom” and “bad necks” are mentioned, then I’m all for it. Same goesfor my produce safety educator work. Where an in-person workshop titled “COVID and Produce Safety” may have done the trick before, now I’m looking for much more detailed information in an online resource or online meeting— something like “COVID and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Produce Safety”—to help me wade through the sea of what’s available to get exactly what I need.
Farmers are finding themselves just as overwhelmed with online resources and offerings. As educators are tied to their computers instead of heading out to farms or extension offices for workshops, the online options have exploded! The National Young Farmers Coalition, responding to the need from urban producers in their network to see produce safety trainings that sound like and are geared towards them, debuted a version of the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training called, simply, “PSA Grower Training for Urban Producers.”
Maggie Kaiser, the produce safety training coordinator for Young Farmers, has shared in the past that there can be a gap between the resources urban producers want and need and what is readily available. Through her work, she has found that these producers often struggle to find assistance for “their growing operations, which may be operations using innovative ag technologies, smaller community-focused farms, or non-profit farms focused on education.”
Kaiser, also an urban producer in New Orleans, worked with staff at Young Farmers to adapt the existing PSA Grower Training to include more photos that look like situations urban producers may find themselves in. Think more wheelbarrows and less large tractors, shipping containers instead of large red barns, and more cats, dogs, and random visitors posing risks instead of deer. The staff brainstormed and crowdsourced scenarios urban producers may face, like receiving compost ingredients from local restaurants or navigating what to do when there is a boil advisory for your municipal water. They also made sure to recruit trainers who are also urban producers, like Kaiser and Tenisio Seanima from Nature’s Candy Farms.
The time Young Farmers spent adapting this training was well received by the urban producer community, with its first session, held in February, selling out quickly. Many of the growers expressed that they were glad to have a space to talk about specific needs that they face. While the PSA Grower Curriculum works for any grower, being able to see yourself in the curriculum and be able to talk with other producers in similar situations is invaluable. Young Farmers will continue to refine the training based off grower feedback, with plans to host a similar training in April.
Check out the Local Food Safety Collaborative website, along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse, for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.
This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.
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