Who are the Agri-Advocates? And Why Food Safety Is Everyone Responsibility

On last week, I was selected to attend a Post- Harvest Farm Tour traveling across various small cities in Florida. During this explosive week tour, I was able to view the Orlando Marriott Hotel (in-door) hydroponic system, Wal-Mart and Del Monte distribution center, including (18) small farms and agribusinesses contributing to the food system. The tour was absolutely AH-MAZING (amazing). You saw every aspect of farming, packing, and the shipping process including procedures to secure food safety.

Our University has a food safety grant educating farmers and agribusiness about new policies including providing Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Growers Training, (PSA) Train-the-Trainers and GAP certifications in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. The problem is many small and limited resource farmers appear to be unaware of these new policies directly affecting them. I am Agri-Advocate (educator, motivator and ag influencer), educating and empowering everyone on various aspect of agriculture including food safety, farm to table concept, promoting why agriculture is needed and why farming is so important in communities. In addition, it is one of my many responsibilities to educate the general public, stakeholders, and farmers about these policies and trends within 2018 Farm Bill-Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Whether you work closely with farmers, food banks, or agribusiness, in many cases you are receiving local fresh fruits and vegetable from these entities. Please let us never forget “good food is safe food.” An old African proverb comes to mind, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This same concept applies to food system. It takes an entire community of different people interacting and educating our small and limited resource farmers to inform them of the new policies/procedures and research-based good agricultural practices in order to maintain their business and continue to produce safe wholesome foods. We are the Agri-Advocates- "the village."  We must continue to be vigilant and take notice of our children- our farmers. Within the food system community, food safety involves everyone in the food chain. For many of us, we see these farmers every day and as Agri-Advocate it is up to all of us to pass along the knowledge including to have those tough discussion on good agriculture practices and what  they are doing to make the food safe from farm to table. Caring is sharing, so let us continue to  educate and empower our clientele-farmers and agribusiness.  We are all Agri-Advocate whether we want to admit it or not. Therefore, we must keep in mind when we gamble with food safety, we bet our life and others, and that price is too heavy to have a change of heart.

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Special thanks to University of Florida for hosting the Post Harvest Farm Tour. Extended thanks to Dr. Armitra Jackson-Davis with Alabama A&M University for the invitation.


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    Andrew Carberry on 3/22/2019 2:33:11 PM

    Thanks for sharing Elicia, and being an Agri-advocate! That tour does sound interesting. Were the small farms selling into the Delmonte/Walmart distribution center? I'm curious what size the farms were and how that wholesale market fit into their over business plan. Any takeaways for other farms considering that type of market?

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    ELICIA CHAVEREST on 3/23/2019 12:11:44 AM

    Hi Andrew
    Thanks for reading my short post of the Post Harvest Farm Tour. The majority of the farms had multiple marketing outlets including Wal-mart and others stores. Many farms also packed and shipped their products directly from the farm. For instance, we visited a fifth generation strawberry farm. They packed on their property and shipped the strawberries the same day too other food chains such as Kroger, Publix and Wholefoods. They also sold strawberries directly from the farm.

    The farms we visited were from 10 acres up to 200 acres. Many were producing their crops using hoop houses (high tunnels). In my opinion, the wholesale market is a awesome to get rid of high volume of crops quickly. So I see the need to work with wholesale market especially if you are a large farm operation. However, many farmers know its best to be diversified even with the marketing outlets. Takeaway- If you have a large farm, wholesale market should always be an option, but consider having multiple marketing outlets for selling fruits and veggie. Marketing outlets such as farmer' market,
    pick your own, CSA, and road-side stands can be a life saver for farmers.

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    Andrew Carberry on 3/28/2019 8:45:45 PM

    Thanks for the response!

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    Cathy Davies on 6/19/2019 5:58:03 PM

    Hi Elicia,
    What a great tour that must have been! I do food safety for small food businesses, mostly those making packaged goods. I recently took the PSA training so I would know what produce handlers have to do in terms of safety and add that information to my preventive controls for human food training. I am always excited to meet other food systems people who are interested in food safety.