Proposed by: Meredith Vaughn Melendez

Presenters: Melendez, M. V., Senior Program Coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Trenton, NJ 08648
Kline, W.L., Agricultural Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cumberland County, Millville, NJ 08332

The increasing focus on farm food safety due to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and general customer concern has created a need for education on Good Agricultural Practices for direct market producers. Starting in 2013 Dr. Kline and Meredith Melendez have offered a variety of outreach methods to reach a diversified group of fruit and vegetable producers in NJ. The foundation of this programming is Dr. Kline’s farm food safety work which began in 1999 focusing on third party audits. Typically direct market producers are not affected by third party audits, leaving them without previous farm food safety educational opportunities. A sizeable percentage of direct market growers in New Jersey will qualify for compliance with the impending FSMA, creating a need for quality educational programming on GAPs and FSMA regulations.

Training workshops include PowerPoint presentations on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), instruction on writing farm risk assessments and guidance on writing their personalized farm food safety plan. The training manual “Food Safety for Retail Marketers” was developed by Kline and Melendez and focuses on GAPs for retail farm operations. Participants are given checklists, sample documentation forms, and sample risk assessments. Additionally participants are given a USB drive with additional resources and a farm food safety plan template that they use as a starting point for their own plan. Time during the workshop is dedicated to the writing of a farm food safety plan with Kline and Melendez offering support as needed. Farm walk throughs are offered to participants once they have completed their farm food safety plan. Regular updates regarding regulation changes and GAPs are posted on the Rutgers Plant and Pest Advisory online.

Coordination and collaboration with national, state, and local officials along with individual growers, grower associations and commodity groups is essential to providing timely, quality food safety information to NJ producers. Both Kline and Melendez collaborate with the Rutgers Agritourism Working Group, the NJ Direct Farm Market Association, NOFA NJ, Annie’s Project NJ and agriculture agents throughout the state. Both Kline and Melendez are members of the Produce Safety Alliance which is collaborating with the USDA and the FDA in creating a nationwide training program for food safety educators. Additionally Kline and Melendez are active members of the New Jersey Food Safety Task Force which is a collaborative effort between Extension, NJ Department of Ag, NJ Department of Health, USDA and grower groups.

All Accepted Proposals