FPE Research Recommendations in Educating Food Producers Vital to Food Supply Protection Aylin Sayir, NCFPD, Michigan State University
Food Protection Education Background:
Food producers (or farmers) are an essential part of the economy, food supply and cultural heritage. While understanding the food supply in its entirety can provide knowledge leading to a safer and more successful food industry, it is vital to begin at the farm. Food producers form the first integral part of the management of the food supply of the country.
Food Protection Vulnerability of the farm-setting:
Several incidents illustrate the vulnerability of farms to many different threats, both intentional and unintentional. - BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) or Mad Cow disease outbreak in England (1996) - Theft of chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia, from farms for producing methamphetamines - Accidental contamination of feed with PBB (Polybrominated biphenyls) in Michigan in 1973 resulted in the destruction of thousands of cattle, swine, sheep, and chickens. The long-term health effects of its consumption are still being studied today. - Numerous educational programs, such as the WIFSS (Western Institute Food Safety & Security) agroterorrism awareness training program, illustrate the vulnerability of U.S. farms to Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).
Food Protection Research findings:
These examples and others found in relevant literature point out the need for regular communication with food producers in order to enhance their ability to make changes and informed decisions with greater ease and success. Raising awareness of new practices and new information can create a more positive attitude regarding the acceptance of new information and the implementation of new practices.
Food Protection Literature Review:
Prior to this study, an existing comprehensive summary of the current literature was not available. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies have been funding research in food safety and protection to further the safety of the supply chain from farm-to-fork. To accomplish this aim, it becomes necessary to examine the best way to access participants along the chain and determine effective and efficient ways for reaching each group.
Food Protection Important variables when studying farmers:
Current literature shows that certain variables are important in determining the most effective methods for communication specifically with farmers. However, more research needs to be done in order to flesh out the specifics of each variable and other potential variables. · Information-seeking behavior – source preference, presentation of information materials (e.g. pamphlet, flyer, online, training class, book, etc.). · Educational background – the highest level of education achieved by food producer · Economic Impact – the financial impact a change in behavior would have on the farm or on production. · Innovativeness (or willingness to change or adopt to change) – Each food producer’s willingness to change behavior. In other words, some are more likely to change their behavior quickly while others might be more likely to hesitate in changing their behavior. · Technology – Personal or business computer and its uses – Availability, usage & understanding
Segmenting food producers as an audience:
Research (Rice & Atkin, 2000) has shown that the most successful communication campaigns conduct an audience assessment and segment audiences accordingly. This should be done prior to developing a campaign or communicating with the given audience. By segmenting food producers, communication materials can be specific to their needs and therefore, be more effective. The variables listed below are segmentation suggestions based on previous research. Further research could determine the best variable for any particular issue. · Type of farm (i.e. dairy, vegetable, livestock etc.) · Size of farm (i.e. acreage, profits) · Educational Background · Technology · Location – Geographical & Accessibility of farm
Food Protection Packaging of Educational Materials:
Visual presentation of materials is an invaluable part of a communication campaign. While further research is needed to understand general guidelines on educational materials (e.g. visual appeal and ease of consumption) and how they resonate with producers, specific recommendations include: · Producers will pay more attention to appropriately packaged and marketed materials. This, in turn, can increase their likelihood of attending a program or receptivity. For example, “Agricultural” or “Technical” skills training has been shown to have greater appeal versus “Land” or “Risk” management because of the cost-benefit analysis on face value Communication methods for reaching producers Common and successful ways to communicate with the production community include: · Extension agencies – There may be an existing relationship through extension agencies, or perhaps a level of trust because of its tie to a university. · On-site – Going to a production site or community means that the food producer does not have to travel or leave their place of work. · Snowballing - Asking attendees to bring a friend. By reaching one food producer and asking him/her to invite a food producer friend or neighbor, attendance will increase rapidly
Further research is required to adequately understand the communication and education with producers. Across the literature, the aforementioned variables have proven to be a factor in food producer information seeking behavior and behavior in general. However, there have not been clear and definitive results showing exactly how each variable affects farmer behavior and information seeking behavior.
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