Facts Not Fear on Growing Produce

Understanding Salinas Valley Farming Practices

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Among the mix of registered dietitians conveying the accurate message, California Ag Today concluded our conversation about Facts Not Fear with Teresa Thorn, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, located in Watsonville.

The Alliance hosted the second Facts Not Fear produce safety media tour, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, for registered dieticians, health and nutrition writers, and bloggers last month in the Salinas Valley. Impacting the customer with the proper information is key.

Teresa Thorn

“We have a mix of writers and bloggers who again have that bullhorn to consumers,” Thorn said.

Social media was also used in conveying the message.

“They’re posting, and we’ve read it and retweeted a lot of their stuff so you can go to our social channels and see some of it,” she explained.

Speaking to growers was very important, and asking industry professionals to attend was vital to cultivating relationships.

“They loved being out in the field. We were always the last ones to get on the bus because they had so many questions,” Thorn said.

The group also does a roundtable discussion where they bring in scientists, shafts, regulators, farmers, and farming companies into the room at Markon’s Produce Expo.

“Building that network was really important,” Thorn said.

Food Bloggers, Dietitians Learn More About Produce Safety in Salinas

“Facts Not Fear” Educates Participants on Vegetable Production

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The Alliance for Food and Farming, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, hosted its second “Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media tour last week in the Salinas Valley.

“Our goal is for … [registered dieticians], health and nutrition writers and bloggers to see firsthand the care and commitment farmers have for producing safe and wholesome foods.  We believe we met that goal.  But, what we learn from our tour guests continues to be just as valuable,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville.

In addition to farm and facility tours, the AFF and Markon facilitated a round table meeting where tour guests were joined by farmers and farming companies, scientists, regulators and chefs for a free-flowing discussion that encompassed food safety, farming practices, food waste, pesticide use, food safety regulations, new technologies, health and nutrition, and consumer outreach.

The RDs, bloggers, and writers attending the tour reported they enjoyed the chance to tour the farms one day and then discuss what they saw with these experts.  They also appreciated the opportunity to share their information needs and concerns directly during the round table discussion.

And, what were some of our key takeaways from guests?  Consumers want transparent and honest communication regarding food safety and food production practices.  The RDs, bloggers, and writers share The Alliance for Food and Farming’s concerns about produce safety misinformation and appreciate and need access to scientists and experts that can assist them when addressing consumer questions and correcting misconceptions.

“And, they were very impressed with the technological advancements they saw in the harvesting and processing of produce,” said Thorne.

“While the importance of seeing the fields and harvest and touring processing facilities cannot be underscored enough, meeting and connecting with the people growing our food, directly sharing concerns with farmers and scientists in a group and one-on-one setting and the expansion of their produce industry network is of equal importance for our guests,” Thorne explained.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who allowed us to visit their farms, watch the harvest, view their processing facilities as well as joined us for the round table discussion,” Thorne said.  “And, our thanks and appreciation to our tour partner, Markon Cooperative, for making this tour possible as well as our tour sponsors Cal-Giant Berry Farms, the California Strawberry Commission and the Produce Marketing Association.”

Thorne also praised the 2017 and 2018 tour alumni.

“We will keep the conversation going and look forward to learning more from the attendees as we all work toward our shared goal of increasing daily consumption of organic and conventional fruits and veggies,” she said.

The host, The Markon Cooperative, supplies the food service industry fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sandra Witte, New Ag Dean at Fresno State

Dr. Sandra Witte Named Dean of Jordan College at Fresno State

(March 16, 2016) – Dr. Sandra Witte, who has been serving as interim dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State, has been appointed permanent dean, effectively immediately.

Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Witte’s exceptional work as interim dean made her the best person for the position.

“We conducted a yearlong national search for a dean but did not find the right candidate for this important position,” said Zelezny. “In the meantime, it became clear to me, the faculty, staff and our strong partners in the agriculture community that Dr. Witte was the right candidate. I’m pleased she agreed to stay at Fresno State as permanent dean.”

Zelezny added: “This is a critical time for the Jordan College as we prepare for the opening of the Jordan Agricultural Research Center this spring and continue our laser-focus on crucial issues related to water and sustainability. I am confident Dr. Witte will lead the college to increasing national prominence.”real JCAST Logo

Witte has taken an unconventional route to the dean’s position, starting her career as a registered dietitian and serving as a professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, one of seven departments in the Jordan College.

“In the Jordan College, we often talk about offering programs from farm to fork and all the business in between,” said Witte. “While most people think of agriculture from the farm end, my connection is clearly on the fork end. I have always had an appreciation for traditional agriculture, and in my time at Fresno State, that has bloomed into a passion. After all, where is the food without the farmer?” she said.

Witte joins a growing number of women in agricultural leadership positions that traditionally have been held by males in universities, industry and commodity groups in the U.S.

The Jordan College maintains an enrollment of approximately 2,400 undergraduate and 100 graduate students from diverse backgrounds from throughout California, the U.S. and the world. Undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs are offered in the major areas of agricultural business; animal sciences and agricultural education; child, family and consumer sciences; food science and nutrition; industrial technology; plant science; and viticulture and enology.

Faculty and students conduct applied research and public service in selected areas of agriculture, food sciences, industrial technology and family sciences. Students engage in learning science, technology and management in the classroom and by experience on the 1,000-acre on-campus University Agricultural Laboratory.

Witte has served as interim dean since October 2014. Previously, she jointly held the positions of associate dean of the Jordan College and dean of the Division of Graduate Studies. She joined the Fresno State faculty in 1992 and took her first administrative assignment in 2007.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; master’s degree in home economics, nutrition and dietetics option at Fresno State; and her Ph.D. in food systems management at Oregon State University, Corvallis.

____________________________

Photo: Sandra Witte, dean of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State (source: Fresno State