Future Harvest CASA and partners Chesapeake Harvest win USDA-NIFA Award to Build a Culture of Food Safety
Chesapeake Harvest, a project of the Easton Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Future Harvest, Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (FHCASA), has been awarded a USDA Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) grant. Designed to build a culture of food safety among specialty crop producers in the Chesapeake Bay region, the one-year award of just under $150,000 will fund multi-level education and coaching centered on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
By providing producers with education about GAP and food safety risk reduction, the project will help farmers establish the foundational components of good farming and post-harvest handling practices necessary to compete in today’s markets. With its broad-reaching food safety education opportunities, the project leverages the strengths of the partner organizations, allowing an expansion of services to enhance competitiveness and market reach for regional growers.
Elizabeth Beggins, Production Manager for Chesapeake Harvest, remarks, “In association with FSMA, increases in consumer concern are driving an increased need for food safety education and certification among specialty crop producers. This grant award will go a long way towards supporting our hard-working farmers in meeting the demands of the marketplace.”
The project offers multi-level education and training, including a program to develop new and much-needed Food Safety Educators, peer-to-peer and expert-led education workshops, and one-on-one consulting to help farmers get to the doorstep of GAP certification and thus overcome a pivotal barrier to selling in the wholesale marketplace. “Education, training, and focused consulting are key for helping farmers tap new markets as well as make their product safer,” says Dena Leibman, Executive Director of Future Harvest CASA.
A program of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the grant is aimed at supporting small- to mid-size farmers, particularly beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. Titled “Expanding Farmer Education to Create a Culture of Food Safety in the Chesapeake Region,” the grant project draws on Future Harvest’s extensive experience in farmer-to-farmer and expert-led trainings while reinforcing Chesapeake Harvest’s existing online retail and wholesale platform, event collaborations, and food safety education program.