2 min read
farmers with harvest bins

Waycross, Georgia may be most famous for its swamp—the majestic Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is a 438,000-acre wetland full of alligators, water lilies, many miles of kayak trails, and inspiring views. Outside of the swamp—and just as inspiring—is the growing local food scene in Waycross that includes a maker/producer market called the WayGreen Local Fare Market and a Family Farm Share program. The Family Farm Share–made up of the organizations Action Pact, WayGreen, Inc., Ware Children’s Initiative, and Georgia Organics–provides low-cost food boxes that are sourced from local farmers and are designed with and for the families of young children at Action Pact’s Head Start campus.

In July, farmers from the Family Farm Share and McIntosh Seed (a rural community development program) came to a Farm Innovation Project workshop co-hosted with Georgia Organics to build community and learn ways to lower produce safety risks and increase conservation benefits on their farms.

Farm Innovation Project

The Farm Innovation Project–a USDA funded partnership led by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University–incorporates hands-on activities and modern technology to increase farm viability using food safety and conservation practices. Throughout the day, farmers participated in hands-on learning activities to better understand water testing with Joshua Dawson of Fort Valley State University Extension, discuss how to clean food contact surfaces effectively with Kristin Woods of Alabama Extension, and share strategies around constructing a simple on-farm cooler for produce with project partner Billy Mitchell. The day ended with a tour of GreenWay Gardens to see how farmers April and Roger Westover grow healthy, high quality produce using sustainable practices. All the farmers were also able to share how they’ve accessed USDA programs that will help pay for the implementation of conservation practices.

Food safety works within a whole farm system, and the farmers were able to see how they can implement and improve on practices that are profitable and practical to improve conservation on the farm while lowering their financial and food safety risks.

Resources for Producers and Educators

Alabama Extension and its partners are pleased to share the development process and materials with educators who would like to expand this work. Contact Kristin Woods at 251-753-1164 or woodskl@aces.edu for more information. For more information about the project and links to many resources, please visit the Farm Innovation project webpage.

This work is supported by Food Safety Outreach Program [grant no. 2019-70020-30349] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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