The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.
For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.
One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA). We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »
Dr. Carolyn Brooks had little exposure to agriculture while growing up in the city but, thanks to a love for biology nurtured at a 1890’s Land Grant University, she knows plenty now and even served as dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, MD.
Like many city kids growing up in Richmond, Va., Carolyn Brooks didn’t know much about agriculture and had never heard of 4-H. That changed quickly, however, as she was the first in her family to graduate from college—earning a B.S. and then a M.S. in biology from one of the foremost agricultural schools in the country, Tuskegee University, where she said, many people “helped me, guided me, and cared about my success.”
Brooks said that before moving to Tuskegee, Ala., she “knew nothing about the South. I had never been in that kind of environment – in a predominantly black community.” Read more »
A seasonal high tunnel, built with assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, helps the Hooks to expand their growing season.
Alphonso (Al) Hooks, a farmer from the Milstead community near Shorter, Ala. has expanded his produce-growing-and-processing operation from a small local concern to also being a supply source for regional Walmart stores.
A few years ago, Hooks formed Al Hooks Produce, a local cooperative involving him, his son, Demetrius, and four other local growers. The cooperative pools produce (mostly peas, cabbage and greens like collards and turnip greens) from the five farms for distribution to restaurants, grocery stores and nearby farmer’s markets, after it is washed and packaged in Hooks’ processing facility. Read more »
Earlier this week, I attended the 2011 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference to accept the ‘Chairman’s Award’ on Secretary Vilsack’s behalf.
Over the decades, HBCUs have been critical in producing many of our nation’s great authors, intellectuals, civil rights and business leaders, inventors and teachers. There are thousands of USDA employees, from soil scientists to conservationists, who hail from HBCUs. And maintaining our HBCUs as thriving, top-notch, centers of higher-education is critical to preparing our nation’s future workforce and keeping America competitive.
That Secretary Vilsack was honored with this award, is a testament to his work to strengthen USDA’s relationship with HBCUs. As Secretary, he has worked to build a new era at USDA as a premier service provider and partner for all Americans, including those in minority and underserved communities. Read more »