By Billy Mitchell, NFU Food Safety Training Coordinator, & Tricia Wancko, NFU Food Safety Grant Coordinator

The Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training provides an excellent opportunity both for growers to learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and for trainers to build community as they enhance their skills teaching food safety with diverse audiences. The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has two options for individuals who want to become trainers: you can either become a Trainer or a Lead Trainer. The PSA has online resources to help educators decide what option may be best for them and outlines the steps they need to take to make that happen. Recently, in collaboration with the Local Food Safety Collaborative, they hosted a webinar titled “Becoming a PSA Lead Trainer: How to Build Your Foundation for Training Success,” which featured Donna Clements and Gretchen Wall of the PSA as well as three PSA Lead Trainer panelists – Elisabeth Hodgdon (Cornell Cooperative Extension), Barrett Vaughn (Tuskegee University), and Karen Ullman (Washington State Department of Agriculture). These Lead Trainers shared their expert advice and experiences on preparing to apply to be a PSA Lead Trainer and gave their takes on how to make trainings a success.

Educators become Lead Trainers for PSA Grower Trainings for many reasons. Hodgdon already had a passion for working with growers and became a Lead Trainer for a very practical reason: when she joined her team, there wasn’t a Lead Trainer on staff. Vaughn saw there was a real need for more Lead Trainers in his region; by becoming one, he would have the ability to put together trainings relatively quickly to help meet the needs of the growers in the Alabama area. Ullman found the role just made perfect sense; she had years of experience with on-farm produce safety and event planning, helpful for both connecting with an audience of growers and executing all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a training a success. She also found that being a Lead Trainer is great for professional development and personal growth, as the skills required of a good Lead Trainer are widely applicable to other areas of life.

The PSA has a great collection of resources to help individuals become a Lead Trainer, including general information on the PSA Trainer & Lead Trainer Process, a PSA Trainer Flow Diagram, and Tips for Developing a Successful PSA Lead Trainer Application. The application itself has four short-answer questions that each reflect the applicants four competency areas: produce safety scientific knowledge and experience, fruit and vegetable production experience, effectiveness delivering a training, and knowledge of the FSMA PSR. Successful answers demonstrate an ability to communicate the “musts” and “shoulds” of the rule in a practical way that a grower will understand. Responses are limited to 350 words and should reflect how you would answer a grower’s question in a course—and not just rely on rule jargon. The PSA has developed a rubric for how they grade answers to help an applicant understand what they are looking for.

Applicants may be worried they don’t have enough experience. All the Lead Trainers on the panel stressed that one of best ways to get to know information is by teaching it and encouraged new Lead Trainers to get out there and start training. Vaughn shared how helpful it was for him to see varying styles of delivery and how individual educators manage time, space, and address different types of audiences and expectations. Ullman focused on the importance of connecting with your audience. Trainers should not only have solid knowledge of the Produce Safety Rule, but also be able insert their own style “to weave together a story that’s able to link all these concepts [that] helps make things memorable and encourages behavior change in attendees.” Wall explained that there is no one way to prepare for the role and encouraged applicants to recognize their strengths and focus on filling in knowledge gaps. And Clements reminded the audience that humor is important! Those tools—deep knowledge of the rule, storytelling, relying on your strengths and the strengths of your fellow presenters and farmers in attendance, and creating a positive environment—help to make PSA grower trainings community events that foster food safety practice change and build strong relationships for years to come. A Lead Trainer plays an incredibly important part in making that happen.

To keep up to date with the PSA, join their listserv  for news and trainer updates. Please visit 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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