Improvement of the safety of food handling practices on small farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Paul Dawson
Clemson University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety


    To identify risk factors for specialty crops in SC, the research team conducted a bacterial assessment of products and farms and also administered a survey to farmers and consumers. We collected samples of fresh produce being sold at farmers markets within 2 regions of South Carolina (Coastal, Upstate). Produce samples were enumerated for total aerobic organisms and coliforms and these data are still being analyzed to determine if there are regional, seasonal or product effects in bacterial levels. A consumer and farmer survey was to determine consumer expectations and misconception about locally grown produce and producers beliefs on how to market their product. Results show that consumer priority for purchasing produce rank “locally grown” over “organic.” The research team participated in 2 GAP workshops in cooperation with the SC Department of Agriculture to deliver food safety information to small farmers in South Carolina.

    Project objectives:

    The goal of this project is to identify risk factors for food safety in the processing of specialty crops on small farms and to develop more effective and targeted interventions for foodborne illness prevention. We propose four objectives to accomplish this goal: 1. To develop a more complete characterization of food handling, hygiene, and sanitation practices that contributes to foodborne illness by conducting observations of harvest and packing practices on small farms in the SE US. 2. To identify foodborne illness risk factors and effective control strategies using the findings from the observations and microbiological testing results. 3. To develop, deliver, evaluate, and disseminate training interventions targeting farm managers based on identified risk factors and control strategies to increase their competency in delivering educational messages to farm workers. 4. To determine consumer perceptions of specialty products, especially organic and locally grown produce.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.