Food Storage Curriculum for Farmers and Processors

2014 Annual Report for ONE13-176

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,952.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Christopher Callahan
University of Vermont Extension

Food Storage Curriculum for Farmers and Processors

Summary

The second year of this project saw further refinement of the workshop curriculum and delivery methods and expanded on-site consultations and individual education. The workshop content from the prior reporting period remains available on the crop storage resources web page in day-long and webinar forms. In this reporting period we developed a half-day workshop on the topic which helped to round out the offerings. An additional sixty-six (66) workshop and webinar attendees were reached in this reporting period. Forty-seven individual site visits or other consultations (email or phone) were conducted throughout the state of Vermont and surrounding region. The course content remains relevant, the resources page is useful and the diversity of the delivery methods is appreciated based on participant evaluations to-date. Further, focused evaluation for impact is planned for the next two months.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The project was planned with the following methods; assessment, benchmarking, gap identification, research, education and impact evaluation. A summary of work relative to each component is provided below.

 

Assessment – The first year of the project (prior reporting period) allowed for initial curriculum and resource development based on assessment of available resources and needs among the community. The delivery of the first year of workshops resulted in a great deal of feedback that was taken into account in refining and revising the second year’s workshop delivery. The basic structure of the course remains the same: the growing importance of long-term crop storage, principles of energy and heat transfer, basic heating and refrigeration, construction for utility and efficiency, maintaining temperature, airflow and humidity, biological processes of crops in storage, storage characteristics of various crops, and sizing and design of storage systems

 

Benchmarking/Gap Identification – Site visits have been a critical part of this project as that provides for very intimate exchange of storage information such as practices, infrastructure, challenges and achievements. Several key challenges have been noted; best practices for handling between harvest and storage, container selection and availability, finding and using smooth cleanable finish surfaces in storage (and other postharvest areas),

 

Research – Research in this reporting period included attendance at the Pennsylvania State University Food Science Short Course and the University of California at Davis Postharvest Technology Short Course by Chris Callahan. Both of these activities resulted in increased knowledge of the project PI in the areas of food science, food safety and postharvest technology. This is a case of combining the results of differently funded projects for increased impact. The activities of SARE ONE13-176 have benefited from the inclusion of learning at these two other courses and the activities of the SARE project helped to identify the other courses as being important for regional progress in the postharvest realm.

 

Education – Education activity continued in the form of individual consultations, workshops and webinars. Fall 2014 workshop response was lower than expected and mid-Winter scheduling in alignment with existing planned meetings and conferences to continue to provide accessibility to the programming.

 

Impact Evaluation – This second year of the project has included a great deal of field visits which have helped to assess the impact of the project. Heading into the last few months of the project we will initiate the evaluation component to assess the specific impact on the participating farms.

 

Accomplishments/Milestones

  • Curriculum Development (April 1, 2013 – July 31, 2013) – Reported previous, see 2013 Annual Report.
  • Year 1 Courses (August 1, 2013 – October 31, 2013) – Reported previously, see 2013 Annual Report.
  • Curriculum Refinement (November 1, 2013 – July 31, 2014) –
    • The continued development and improvement of course content continued during this reporting period based on feedback from prior course participants, field interviews, and site visits. A key component of this year’s curriculum development was the PI’s attendance of the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Short Course in June 2014. This short course included 1 week of classroom and lab based learning related to postharvest practices, research and technology and 1 week of field visits to 19 farm and food operations between Sacramento, CA, Bakersfield, CA and San Francisco, CA. The exposure to postharvest practices in California, while quite different in scale when compared to Vermont and other New England states, was incredibly informative. The week long coverage of postharvest fundamentals helped to improve my basic understanding of the topic and was included in revisions of this project’s course content as a result.
    • The workshop portion of the project was replicated in a 5-day series in the Atlantic Canadian Provinces in February 2014 (under separate, Canadian funding). This was an interim delivery of the postharvest storage workshop series developed in the Fall of 2013 under NE-SARE funding. This was an invited series in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada in association with the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN). Five, one-day workshops were held in Monkton, NB, Fredericton, NB, Charlestown, PEI, Truro, NS, and Wolfville, NS. This instance of the workshop series attracted 125 participants for a total of 845 contact hours. Students were on the phone with their farm staff during coffee and lunch breaks relaying learning and making immediate changes to storage practices in some cases. I have had to turn down several other invitations to conduct this workshop in NY, MA and ME due to other obligations. There is strong demand for the education on the topic. Most importantly, workshop evaluations indicate approximately 37% of students left the workshop with new knowledge they were immediately ready to apply to challenges back home. The opportunity to travel through the Atlantic Provinces of Canada and visit farms there also served to expand my own understanding of current practices and had increased my interest in cross-border collaboration and educational exchange.
  • Year 1 Student Practice Evaluation (January 1, 2014 – March 31, 2014) –
    • Forty-seven (47) individual consultations were provided during the reporting period (Jan 1 – Dec 15, 2014) in the form of site visits, phone calls, or emails depending on the level of inquiry and project detail. These were provided by Chris Callahan, PI and UVM Extension Ag Engineer. These visits helped to clarify course material and web-based references. The site visits also helped to refine the PI’s knowledge of current practices and challenges faced by farmers in Vermont and the surrounding region.
  • Year 2 Courses (August 1, 2014 – October 31, 2014) –
    • A 90 minute webinar version of the workshop was delivered on October 15, 2014 to an audience of 16 people. The webinar was recorded and is available on YouTube (http://youtu.be/CItisUXIUw4) and on the Crop Storage (http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/crop-storage-resources/) Resources Page. This video has had 18 views in the 2 months since being published (this is in addition to the real-time participants).
    • Two 3 hour classroom workshops were held in the Fall of 2014 in Middlebury on October 14, 2014 and Berlin on October 21, 2014. Total attendance was 26. Registration and attendance was lower in this reporting period than anticipated. A strong crop production year kept farmers busy in the field late into the Fall which may explain some of the reduced attendance.
    • The PI decided to aim for replication of the workshop series in webinar form and at future, Winter meetings that farmers are likely to be planning to attend already (e.g. NOFA-VT Winter Conference and Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association Annual Meeting.)

 

  • Year 2 Student Practice Evaluation (January 1, 2015 – February 15, 2015) – To be conducted as planned.

 

  • Project Evaluation (February 16, 2015 – March 1, 2015) – To be conducted as planned.

 

  • Reporting & Sharing (February 1, 2015 – March 31, 2015) – To be conducted as planned.

Collaborators:

Andrew Knafel

andrew@clearbrookfarm.com
Farmer
Clear Brook Farm
47 Hidden Valley Rd
Shaftsbury, VT 05262
Office Phone: 8024424273
Website: www.clearbrookfarm.com
David Marchant

riverberryfarm@comcast.net
Farmer
River Berry Farm
191 Goose Pond Road
Fairfax , VT 05454
Office Phone: 8028496853
Robin Morris

admin@madriverfoodhub.com
Owner/Manager
Mad River Food Hub
151-1 Mad River Canoe Road
Waitsfield, VT 05673
Office Phone: 8024987379
Website: www.madriverfoodhub.com
Jon Satz

woodsmarketgarden@msn.com
Farmer
Wood’s Market Garden
93 Wood Lane
Brandon, VT 05733
Office Phone: 8022476630
Website: www.woodsmarketgarden.com