Progress report for LNE19-375
One hundred (100) fruit and vegetable growers will adopt improved postharvest equipment and building practices among practices resulting in $10,000 dollars annual net benefit to each farm.
Postharvest design, construction, and purchase decisions should be informed by and result in labor efficiency, produce safety, product quality and overall farm profitability. Growers in the northeast are investing in postharvest improvements as they increase production to serve increasingly demanding markets and produce safety requirements. Unfortunately, educational resources are lacking on this topic so educational programs and technical assistance tends to be ad hoc and inefficient.
This project will consolidate existing knowledge, best practices and new developments about postharvest equipment, infrastructure, and buildings into a print publication, a web-based handbook, workshop curriculum / educational materials, and recorded videos.
Our work will include
- research into equipment and construction practices that are not common in the region and also
- documentation of current best practices through case studies highlighting specific farms.
This will benefit growers by
- reducing the amount of individual grower research required to make postharvest decisions (i.e. reduced overhead),
- enabling practices that will improve labor efficiency (i.e. reduced labor expense),
- supporting increased capacity (i.e. increase sales)
- mitigating risk associated with produce safety factors (i.e. enhance sustainability.)
The educational plan is comprised of five main curricular categories with specific concepts informed by earlier stakeholder engagement.
- GUIDING PRINCIPLES – Location, Flow of Product, Flow of People, Lean Farming Principles, Ergonomics, Produce Safety, Sanitary/Hygienic Design, Capital Planning, Return on Investment
- BUILDING AND INFRASTRUCTURE – Floors and Foundations, Drains, Doors, Wall Constructions, Cleanable Materials, Cooler Options, Utilities
- EQUIPMENT - Containers and Bins, Equipment for Lifting and Moving, Conveyors, Washlines, Brush Washers, Rinse Conveyors, Automated Greens Washers, Greens bubblers, Barrel / Drum Washers, Dunk / Dump Tanks, Bunch Washers, Sorting Tables, Hoses, Greens Spinners
- OPERATIONS – Loading, Unloading, Packing, Cleaning and Sanitizing, Standard Operating Procedures, Recordkeeping
- MOTIVATIONS - Why do specific farms adopt and sustain certain systems or practices that are different from others (e.g. same crop, different practice… the question is Why?)
Our educational approaches will be varied (conference sessions, workshops, webinars and direct technical assistance by phone, email and social media) to enhance farmer access and engagement. A challenge with traditional formal educational events is the gap between the event and the intended decision, action or change of behavior. The project team has leveraged sustained communication to directly engage with farmers as project partners. This has led to a “relational” vs. “transactional” educational approach and eases both project execution and evaluation of impact.
APPROACH - The educational approach will include (1) assessing current practice and potential improvements, (2) summarizing grower challenges in decision making, (3) soliciting peer-teacher candidates, (4) collecting testimonial experiences, (5) researching alternatives, (6) summarizing learning from #1-5 in web-based publications and videos, (7) facilitating highly interactive webinars to facilitate distribution of learning, resources, and peer-to-peer exchange, and (8) development and delivery of at least two in-person workshops and/or meeting/conference sessions.
OUTPUTS – Educational outputs will include:
- Summaries of postharvest building construction practices including construction detail drawings that explain specific practices (e.g. designing surfaces for cleaning and sanitizing (hygienic design), concrete floors, placement and sizing of drains, vapor barrier placement, rodent management, utilities.)
- Collected examples of postharvest equipment (e.g. barrel washers, brush washers, rinse conveyors, bunch washers, spray tables, greens spinners) and associated best practices (e.g. relevant crops per machine, throughput, cleaning and sanitizing, maintenance).
- Consolidated printed publication on the topics covered by the project. Content will also be available on the web, as a download, and augmented with additional photos and video.
- Regular webinars to provide a platform for project outreach, distribution of educational materials and a forum for peer-to-peer learning highlighting personal experiences and decisions.
- Presentation at conferences and hands-on workshops to demonstrate project findings and improve learning through active participation.
1. 50 growers reflect and share their postharvest successes and challenges. At least 10 will have actively engaged in the project as peer-teachers and case-study subjects.
Through the workshop outputs noted below, growers have been able to review and reflect on their packshed layout, equipment, and operations. Several have served as peer-to-peer coaches and practices have been highlighted informally. No formal case studies have been developed under this project yet.
2. 200 growers reached through a book, online resources, workshops and webinars, and 50 report improved practice.
Workshops and distributed publications, videos and other resources reached 729 growers (1,174 contact hours) from 8 northeast states in by the period ending 3/31/20.
In this same period 62 growers were supported in planning for specific changes in their postharvest handling spaces with 27 farm visits and 75 email or phone contacts. This led to 37 growers clarifying their plans and 11 implementing an improved practice in the reporting period.
3. 100 growers reached via webinar, and 150 will be reached with direct technical assistance.
Given the opportunities for live workshop delivery during this period, the team opted for that method over webinars. The team has been developing a recorded version of our Postharvest Planning workshop geared to just-in-time learning for those who can't make an in-person offering. Expected completion is Aug 2020.
4. 30 growers evaluated for learning and verification of practice adoption.
Evaluations were conducted and the data is being reviewed.
5. 200 additional growers are reached through a book, online resources, workshops and webinars, with an additional 25 with improved practice.
The project team recorded a webinar version of the popular Planning for Postharvest Efficiency, Profitability, and Food Safety and made the videos available as a YouTube Playlist.
Video Resources (486 individual video views, 181 contact hours)
- YouTube Video Series: Project Planning for Postharvest Efficiency, Profitability & Food Safety. 8 Videos. Posted June 25, 2020. 105 playlist views.
- Introduction (Session 1), 99 views, 14 hours view time
- Postharvest & Produce Safety (Session 2), 65 views, 12 hours view time
- Flow & Lean (Session 3), 67 views, 35 hours view time
- Virtual Tour of Farms (Session 4), 63 views, 22 hours view time
- Buildings & Infrastructure (Session 5), 73 views, 34 hours view time
- Equipment (Session 6), 50 views, 22 hours view time
- Tools (Session 7), 49 views, 32 hours view time
- Executing your Plan (Session 8), 20 views, 9 hours view time
The team developed additional web and print based educational resources housed on the UVM Ext Ag Eng webpage. These resources were developed in response to repeated expressions of need from growers who have been engaged in the project.
Web resource views 1/15/2020-1/15/2021 (10,137 web resource views, 1 minute average, 169 contact hours)
- Safely Dispensing Sanitizers. Blog Post. December 15, 2020. 78 views.
- Shedding Some Light in the Shed - Lighting for Indoor Work on the Farm. Blog Post. November 23, 2020. 120 views
- Giving a Dairy Barn New Life at New Leaf Organics. Blog Post, Fact Sheet and Video Case Study. September 30, 2020. 176 views
- Washing Machine Greens Spinners: Cleaning Tips. Blog Post. July 6, 2020. 203 views
- Spray Tables for Produce Farms. Blog Post. June 2, 2020. 667 views
- Improving Handwashing Stations. Blog Post and Fact Sheet. June 9, 2020. 2,617 views
- Drains for Produce Farms. Blog Post and Fact Sheet. April 23, 2020. 966 views
- Greens Spinners for Farm Use. Blog Post and Fact Sheet. Updated April 16, 2020. 7,944 web page views
- Hygienic Design on Produce Farms. Video. In collaboration with Michigan State University Produce Safety Team. April 6, 2020.
- Risks Posed by Cats on Produce Farms. Fact Sheet. Michigan State University and UVM Extension. March 14, 2020. 186 web page views.
The project team also led or participated in a number of workshops and other educational events as follows.
Workshops / Presentations (153 participants, 274 contact hours)
- 2020 Cooler Construction Basics and Temperature and Humidity Control. Chris Callahan and Scott Sanford. Cornell Winter Crop Storage School. Cornell Cooperative Extension. December 8, 2020. [65 attendees, 2 hours, 130 contact hours.]
- 2020 UVM Extension Horticulture Team Virtual Twilight: Bags, Bins and Liners. C. Callahan, H. Estrin, A. Chamberlin. December 2, 2020. [32 attendees, 1 hour, 32 contact hours]
- 2020 Controlling Humidity and Condensation in Coolers. H. Bryant, M Choate, P. Franklin, C. Callahan, A. Chamberln. Virtual Summer Twilight and Video Playlist. UNH Extension and UVM Extension. July 29, 2020. [32 attendees, 2 hours, 64 contact hours]
- 2020 AZS Rinse Conveyor Users Group Webinar. C. Callahan, A. Chamberlin, H. Shirk. Online. March 5, 2020. [24 attendees, 2 hours, 48 contact hours]
In this same period 43 growers were supported in planning for specific changes in their postharvest handling spaces with 28 farm visits and 61 email or phone contacts. This led to 30 growers clarifying their plans and 17 implementing an improved practice in the reporting period.
6. 150 additional growers reflect and share their postharvest successes and challenges, with at least 20 of these with active engagement.
Growers and service providers have been critical informants for the work noted above and below. These engagements have taken increasingly varied forms and come to us on a variety of channels.
7. 150 additional growers reached via webinar, 100 additional reached with direct technical assistance.
Webinar output included in MS #5 as recorded webinar.
The project team has provided in-depth direct technical assistance to 27 growers planning wash/pack projects since March 2020. These have been a combination of in-person and web-meeting based delivery and have been focused on holistic project planning. (VT 15, MA 3, NH 1, ME 2, NY 4, Other 2)
8. 40 additional growers evaluated for learning and verification of practice adoption.
9. 100 additional growers reflect and share their postharvest successes and challenges, with at least 20 of these with active engagement.
10. 100 additional growers are reached through a book, online resources, workshops and webinars, with an additional 25 with improved practice.
11. 50 additional growers reached via webinar, 50 additional reached with direct technical assistance.
12. 30 additional growers evaluated for learning and verification of practice adoption.
Additional Project Outcomes
A key part of this project involves summarizing known sources of different pieces of equipment and other materials used in packsheds. In an effort to collect this information the team has attended tradeshows or visited manufacturers directly. To date, we have accumulated 11 such visits and developed a list of 44 manufacturers of packshed equipment for future research and conversation. (2020 03 31)