By Billy Mitchell, NFU Food Safety Training Coordinator
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), a collaboration between Cornell University, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is probably best known for developing the PSA Grower Training Course that growers and educators use around the country. Perhaps less well known, but equally important, are the supplemental resources PSA creates on topics like soil amendments, water testing, sanitizers, and more. Gretchen Wall, PSA Coordinator & Northeast Regional Extension Associate, has years of experience working with growers and a diverse background in food science and food systems. Wall, along with other members of the PSA team, pull from this background to help develop new supplemental resources, including a new set of illustrations that communicate foundational produce safety concepts. As they wrap up a year of surveying growers, working with a graphic designer, and receiving feedback from stakeholders, we asked Wall to “Take 5” and share some of what she and her colleagues at PSA learned from the process and why this type of work is so important for them and the farmers they work with.
Where do you work and what part of the country are you in?
Gretchen Wall: I have served as the coordinator for the Produce Safety Alliance based in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University for nearly 10 years. In addition to my role as coordinator, I also provide outreach and technical assistance across the U.S., but my “home” territory is the Northeastern states from West Virginia north to Maine. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to engage with food producers, educators, and regulators in New England and enjoy the White Mountains from my remote office in North Conway, NH.
What motivated you to explore getting the illustrations made?
Gretchen: In the world of education, the term ‘andragogy’ can be defined as “the art and science of helping adults learn”. Incorporating a variety of learning methods (i.e., written, visual, auditory, tactile/hands-on) is key to effectively training adult learners. In addition, illustrations can help support low literacy audiences or those do not speak a common written language (e.g., some Hmong dialects). When art meets science, cool things happen!
Why will it be a valuable resource for produce farmers?
Gretchen: Understanding complex scientific concepts and regulatory requirements in a text heavy format can be a challenge for anyone to absorb during a training and put into practice. These illustrations will relay key produce safety concepts in a way that anyone can understand.
Is there something new you learned while helping develop the illustrations?
Gretchen: Farm and packinghouse environments are complex and making illustrations that reflect actual production practices and environments is more challenging than one might think. Special shout out to our fantastic illustrator, Anni Matsick, for her attention to detail and inquisitive nature that will ensure the illustrations resonate with our intended audiences.
If you could give a farmer one piece of food safety advice, what would it be?
Gretchen: Don’t bite off more than you can chew (pardon the pun). Prioritize the practices which will reduce the biggest food safety risks first, and then build onto your food safety program from there. And never be afraid to ask for help – there are lots of people and resources out there (such as the LFSC) that are happy to lend a hand!
To keep up to date with future work from the Produce Safety Alliance, please visit the PSA Website. For more food safety resources, please visit the Local Food Safety Collaborative website along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.
This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.
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