UCCE On-Line Training Helps Growers Safeguard Their Produce Fields
By Pam Kan-Rice, Assistant Director, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
On their farms, growers are active stewards of the land, protecting soil quality and water quality as well as supporting wildlife by preserving their habitat. At the same time, fresh produce growers must ensure that their crops are free from pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.
To help growers and food safety professionals achieve all of these important goals, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has launched a free online course.
“Actions that farmers take to protect food safety may affect natural resources, and conservation practices may affect food safety,” said Mary Bianchi, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, who oversaw design of the course.
The intent of the UCCE online training is to demonstrate that communication between food safety professionals and growers can help to achieve a balance between food safety and sustainability.
“Our co-management course will help food safety professionals better evaluate the risk of conservation practices,” said Bianchi.
“For example, cover crops attract beneficial insects, help control soil erosion and improve soil quality, but they may attract wildlife,” she said. “In the course, we demonstrate frank conversations between food safety auditors and growers about strategies for minimizing the potential risks of crops being contaminated by animal feces. Growers can often provide existing examples, such as monitoring programs or temporary fencing that excludes wild and domestic animals from produce fields.”
The course also provides growers with tools to evaluate their strategies for managing food safety and sustainability.
“After the training, growers and auditors will be better prepared to engage in realistic and frank discussions of co-management strategies used in crop production” Bianchi said.
The free UCCE online co-management course and related resources are online at UCCE San Luis Obispo County website.
This project was funded by a $39,650 grant from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
A video describing co-management practices from farm to fork can be viewed online at “Co-Management of Food Safety and Sustainability in Fresh Produce“.