- Agronomic: potatoes
- Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (cranberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: beets, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, garlic, leeks, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips
- Education and Training: general education and training
- Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
There is strong demand for increased food storage capacity coupled with limited knowledge base in the region; a food storage educational curriculum for farmers and processors is needed. This has been demonstrated in a recent survey of food system producers and processors in which 85% of respondents indicate interest in attending such a course. Our project will involve producers and processors in the development of a curriculum addressing this need. The course delivery will be via classroom instruction (5 sites), recorded webinar (available 24×7), course workbooks and other references which will reside on the UVM Ag Engineering website. We intend to reach a total of 250 students in Vermont over the two year life of the curriculum development which will include revision after the first year based on student feedback and measured changes in practice. The project focuses on development and delivery in Vermont, but we will make the content freely available to others in the region and beyond who find it helpful. Conventional networks, social media and eNewsletters will be used to distribute the findings and outputs of the project as well as conference attendance and presentation.
Project objectives from proposal:
The project will be carried out in phases of assessment, benchmarking, gap identification, research, education and impact evaluation. In the assessment phase, the project team will describe the current extent and condition of food storage systems in Vermont using surveys, farmer interviews and site visits as well as interviews of mechanical contractors providing design, installation, and repair/maintenance services to the food system. One main output of this phase will be a characterized inventory of the food storage systems already in place. This information does not currently exist, and this lack has limited research and education efforts in this area.
Benchmarking will establish current characteristics and performance of the installed systems including envelope characteristics (insulation and sealing), plant characteristics (compressor, evaporator sizing), air flow, humidification system, temperature and relative humidity controls, use patterns, and any site specific practices including anecdotal lessons learned. Gap identification will review how the current state of food storage in Vermont compares to the best practices nation-wide and also compared to a future-state which might include new technologies and practices. Research will be needed to determine what the best practices are nationwide and what trends in, e.g., mechanical refrigeration or pre-cooling might soon impact Vermont’s food system. Ultimately, this project intends to develop a greater level of knowledge in food storage practices among the food producers. This will be achieved through curriculum development that closely involves partner farmers in order to craft a compelling and relevant course using methods and materials that the partner farmers believe will be most effective.
Finally, the team will evaluate the project performance against our objectives and report as necessary to the funders. A combination of one-day classroom based sessions, recorded webinars, and interactive web-based sessions will be used to deliver the curriculum in the Fall of 2013. The course delivery will be primarily via classroom setting including instruction and design charrettes in which the students can present their storage systems and work through challenges with peers and instructors. These methods were selected based upon responses from stakeholders to the UVM Extension survey. Baseline knowledge and practices will be evaluated at the start of the class with a short questionnaire. A brief survey will be used at the conclusion of the class to measure immediate learning. Finally, each participant will receive a follow-up email and phone call in the Spring of 2014 and/or Fall of 2014 to capture how the class influenced their practice.