By: Sarah Fielder
The University of College Park, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics and the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) was recently awarded a Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Partnership Grant to create and administer on-farm food safety educational programs.
The amount of the grant was $14,917. ALEI plans to collaborate with University of Maryland Extension educators, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and farmers to create the trainings.
The idea to develop the on-farm food safety training programs began with Sarah Everhart and Ashley Ellixson, ALEI legal specialists.
“Last year, when presenting to farmers at Maryland Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) trainings, we had a lot of questions from farmers on how GAP and the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) standards applied to individual operations,” said Everhart.
Everhart and Ellixson desired to provide on-farm food safety trainings to allow educators to use actual equipment and farm buildings and as educational tools thereby providing as much specificity as possible on GAP and FSMA best practices.
“I began contacting farmers about hosting the trainings, and they liked the prospect, not only for their own employees but also for their colleagues,” said Everhart about the program. “Everyone was very excited and supportive, including the regulatory agencies.”
Trainings will be offered at three different types of farms, each in a different location across Maryland. The types of farms include community supported agriculture, agritourism and on-farm market.
“The goal is to equip farmers with the knowledge they need to prevent foodborne illnesses, reduce health risks and thereby improve the quality of life of Maryland’s agricultural community,” said Everhart.
Everhart plans for members of different regulatory agencies to come to the trainings and present on particular topics. Everhart’s next step is to create an outline for the program’s curriculum. The trainings will be held during winter 2017.
Stay tuned to the ALEI website for more details about the trainings.