Hmong strawberry growers grow food safety knowledge
The IssueFood safety scares have cost agricultural producers millions of dollars in lost sales. They also cause consumers to have less faith in the safety of the country's food system. Even though food from California is among the safest and most regulated in the world, we still need to increase our vigilance in the field, in the packing house and in the distribution system. Since strawberries can be sold directly to the public or to processors, food safety efforts need to begin in the field.
What Has ANR Done?Working with the California Strawberry Commission, the Merced and Fresno county Cooperative Extension offices held intensive food safety workshops for small-scale strawberry growers. Utilizing a professional food safety trainer, provided by the Strawberry Commission, many topics related to food safety were covered. It included hands-on training about proper handling of the fruit, and even personal hygiene. Through demonstrations, all of the participants learned how germs can easily be carried on hands if they are not thoroughly washed.
A Hmong interpreter translated the lessons in Hmong for non-English-speaking participants. The farmers were given training materials in Hmong and English that they could use to teach the workers they hired about reducing any chances of the fruit becoming contaminated. Forty-one growers in the Fresno region and 27 in the Merced region participated. These are small growers so while the acres involved are small, the number of participants is significant.
Taking it to the fieldsAlmost all of the small strawberry growers in each county have been trained and understand how to prevent food contamination in the field. Some of the growers also produce vegetables and can apply their food safety knowledge to those crops. The participants now have up-to-date food safety education materials to use when training new employees. A few growers are participating in a food safety auditing program this year to have a documented Food Safety Plan. With an increasing focus on food safety, many produce buyers, suppliers, and consumers want to know that good agricultural practices are being used on the farm. The program helps to document and verify that farms are producing fruits and vegetables in the safest manner possible and that the farmer is aware of potential problems and taking steps to correct them.
Merced & Fresno countiesMaxwell Norton, (209) 385-7403, firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Molinar,(559) 456-7555, email@example.com