Objective: Form a collaboration for food systems programming that brings together Extension educators from “farm gate” to “consumer plate.”
Target Audience: Extension professionals working with consumers, youth, agriculture producers, food service, and food processors.
Theory, Prior Research, Rationale: Today's consumer faces many decisions influencing food choices. However, 98% of Americans are several generations removed from direct farming, according to former United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. As a result, they are less familiar with how our food systems work.
Description: In response to consumer concerns (i.e., food safety, GMOs, pesticides, etc.), we formed a statewide interdisciplinary team of Agriculture, Family/Consumer Science, Food Science, and 4-H professionals to work together to reach consumers from “farm gate” to “consumer plate.” The steps, which are continually evolving, included: dividing into teams [production agriculture, food processing, youth, and consumers/food service] who met together and separately, electronically and face-to-face; establishing a listserv and web-based location to share information; creating a logic model; conducting a statewide survey to determine program priorities; identifying areas to work together; and developing core questions all teams could use in clientele surveys.
Evaluation: Quantitative and qualitative data support this approach: the survey [n = 1,208] identified food safety as our state's top priority and gave us a common emphasis; staff in different disciplines collaborated in developing programs, articles, and social media; and the core set of questions used with all clientele helped aggregate data. Consequently, we could report on our overall impact and say, “Over 42,000 youth and adults statewide made changes and/or reinforced knowledge of food safety practices from when food is produced until food reaches consumers' plates.”
Conclusions and Implications: This statewide collaboration model could be replicated and implemented by others in Extension for greater outreach in food systems education.
The following is the supplementary data to this article: