- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Farm Business Management: market study, marketing management, new enterprise development
Interest in preventing and controlling food safety risks has exploded in recent years as incidents involving contaminated produce and other foods have been widely reported. Consumer concern about food safety contributes to increased regulatory oversight and development of dubious food safety metrics among industry buyers designed mostly for large scale farms. At the same time, the local foods movement has prompted the expansion of the fresh produce industry with small and medium scale produce farmers selling direct to their customers via farmers’ markets (FMs). With this growth there is a need to understand the policies established by FMs to guide practices of their vendors and provide consistent food safety criteria. This research is timely in supporting market managers, while addressing consumer and grower concerns of proposed new food safety standards. The short term outcomes are improved context specific knowledge of food safety practices, roles, and attitudes among NC Region (NCR) local food system actors. Using a multi-method research design the research will identify testable, scale appropriate practices among NCR growers to provide a base of knowledge to investigate the effectiveness of food safety practices on these farms. New knowledge will be generated of FM managers’ perceived and actual roles in ensuring food safety, as well as needs for implementing programs. Surveys of consumers will assess acceptance of a scaled approach to food safety. The intermediate term outcomes are research based knowledge of grower practices to inform and influence food safety recommendations. The research will also result in increased preparedness of FM managers in the NCR and pilot food safety programs, as well as greater confidence in consumer acceptance for scaled approaches to food safety. These outcomes will help ensure that all farms have access to scale appropriate food safety recommendations. Providing alternatives to a one-size-fits-all food safety standard will help to maintain small and medium scale farms on the landscape, as well as assure consumers that they provide verifiably safe foods.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Increased understanding of consumer food safety attitudes and a scaled approach to food safety;
- Research based knowledge of food safety practices of NCR small and medium growers and identification of new, testable, scale appropriate practices of these growers;
- Increased knowledge of the perceived and actual roles taken by farmers’ market managers in ensuring food safety; and,
- Identification of food safety information needs of Farmers' Market managers.