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Adapting Food Safety Curriculum and Training Materials to Support Comprehensive Technical Assistance Programming Targeting Diverse Beginning Farmers in Massachusetts

Whitmore, K.
Third Sector New England, Inc.
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For this project titled "Adapting Food Safety Curriculum and Training Materials to Support Comprehensive Technical Assistance Programming Targeting Diverse Beginning Farmers in Massachusetts," New Entry Sustainable Farming Project will develop curriculum, offer training and provide technical assistance to high-need and under-resourced farmers around the implementation of FSMA compliant food safety plans. Due to structural barriers, cultural differences, language, and access to resources, small-scale, beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers face the biggest challenge to adapting on-farm food safety practices, and will be the most vulnerable to meeting the requirements of FSMA. To ensure that this targeted audience receives adequate training around food safety, New Entry will use staff expertise to modify and adapt existing curricula on FSMA compliance provided by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS). Staff will use this curricula to develop a Plain Language Guide to understanding the FSMA regulations and implementing them on a small-scale farm enterprise in Massachusetts. New Entry will provide technical assistance to 20 high-risk farmers in the development and implementation of an on-farm food safety plan. Staff will also incorporate the modified curriculum into current farmer training curricula, and make the resource widely available to farmers, as well as our peer organizations across the country. In total, the Plain Language guide will assist over 2,000 small-scale and under-resourced vegetable producers across the United States develop appropriate strategies for implementing sustainable on-farm food safety practices.Objective 1: Adapt FDA-approved food safety training materials to create a "Plain Language Guide to FSMA Compliance" and a targeted training curriculum for over 2,500 beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers in eastern Massachusetts and beyond. Using resource materials developed by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS), and Global Growers, New Entry will produce a comprehensive training curriculum and a Plain Language Guide to implementing affordable on-farm FSMA compliant food safety protocols for vegetable farmers for long-term farm business success. Training curricula and Resource Guide Content will cover:Food safety risks associated with vegetable production (site and soil conditions, nutrient and compost management, irrigation/water potability, and pest management)Harvest and post-harvest handling practices, testing and managing water resources for washing crops; packaging, cooling, and transportation.On-farm hygiene and sanitation practices including worker education.Background and context for FSMA legislation.FSMA's Produce Rule; requirements for small-scale farmers to comply.Modifications to on-farm food safety systems to adhere with FSMA regulations.Whole farm business management under FSMA; record-keeping for food safety.The guide will be developed using Plain Language techniques, including but not limited to: presenting information in a clear, straight-forward, organized, and intuitive manner; separating information into defined sections, utilizing simple, precise, concise, and active language; highlighting information relevant to the specific audience; emphasizing components which require action; displaying complex information pictorially; providing a glossary of technical terms. Materials will be available as hard copy and electronic versions. This Plain Language Guide and curriculum development will be designed to supplement existing FSMA training offered by UMass and MDAR, providing simplification of content to reach a wide and diverse audience, but targeted at eastern Massachusetts farmers.Objective 2: Integrate food safety education into New Entry's technical assistance programming to support long-term adherence to food safety regulations. An integral part of this project is providing on-going individual technical assistance throughout the year to help farmers adapt their farm systems to adhere to food safety protocols. This includes one-on-one pre-season technical assistance to develop a FSMA compliant food safety plan with each grower; mid-season monitoring of progress through weekly farm visits; and end-of season evaluation. This model fits directly into our farmer case management system which uses this strategy to monitor farmers' progress in business and crop planning, land leases and infrastructure, and production standard/quality control. New Entry will establish food safety plans and integrate monitoring of those plans into the case management system with at least 20 socially disadvantaged farmers who need the most training and support to achieve compliance.Objective 3: Disseminate food safety training materials targeted at beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers for utilization by farmers and replication among our peer organizations. New Entry will integrate the modified food safety training materials into our 8-week farm business planning course, offered twice during the grant period, reaching an estimated 50 beginning farmers. It will also be presented and offered as a resource to the Urban Farming Institute of Boston's Urban Farmer Training Program which is taught each spring and summer by New Entry staff to 30 aspiring urban farmers. We will also distribute materials to our farmer network via our New Entry listserv, reaching over 500 farmers, and through our Beginning Farmer Network reaching an additional 500 farmers, and through the Boston Food System list serv, reaching 750 farmers. We will inform small-scale farmers of this resource through our monthly e-newsletter, reaching another 4,900 individuals, and make the materials available on our website. In order to share the resource with organizations that might find it useful, we will also make the materials available through the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative, reaching over 200 organizations across the country. Hard copies of the guide will be available in the New Entry Agricultural Lending Library located at our Lowell office. Finally, New Entry will collaborate with MDAR and UMass Extension to host a food safety and FSMA compliance workshop for farmers in eastern MA during which the guide will be disbursed to an estimated 50 attendees. The resource will be made available for MDAR and UMass Extension to disseminate through their producer listservs. It is estimated that the resource will be accessed by over 2,500 farmers in eastern Massachusetts.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Education and Training
Bacterial Pathogens