Jul 8, 2020
Del./Md./Va. researchers increase farmers’ market capacity and safety

Ensuring produce sold at Delmarva farmers’ markets is safe and preparing local farmers to comply with a federal Food Safety Modernization Act in 2021 are twin objectives of a nearly half-million dollar U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

Salina Parveen

According to a news release, Salina Parveen, a University of Maryland Eastern Shore professor of food science and technology, is part of a team of researchers from historically black institutions that will use a “Capacity Building” grant to familiarize farmers with safe-practice expectations in the new federal law.

The team will be led by Chyer Kim, a food scientist at Virginia State University in Petersburg. Theresa Nartea, a marketing Extension agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension and scientists at Delaware State University will also participate in the three-year project.

The number of farmers’ markets on Delmarva – and across the country – has steadily increased over the past 20 years as small farmers increasingly rely on Direct-to-Consumer sales strategies such as farmers’ markets, roadside stands and Community Supported Agriculture, Parveen said.

Karen Stillerman, a senior analyst with the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, reported in 2017 that over 167,000 farms sold $8.7 billion worth of food to the public.

The USDA-funded research project, Parveen said, aims to “assess the bacterial communities, level of foodborne pathogens and prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria on at-risk food products purchased at farmers markets on Delmarva, and to investigate the pathogen transmissions among neighboring states.

Researchers will also “develop research-based training modules on safe food production and handling,” she said.

The findings from the study titled, “Preparing for the Future: Building Capacity for Food Safety Compliance at Farmers Markets,” will be used to conduct research and workshops for stakeholders through each of the institutions’ researchers.

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