Partnerships Spotlight 2: Tricycle Urban Agriculture Fellowship Program

RVA’s Urban Farm on Bainbridge St & W 9th St

Tricycle Urban Agriculture  has been working with Richmond communities  since 2010, when it began Richmond’s first Urban Farm.  The work of Tricycle has not only grown literally in the size and number of its various farm and garden sites, but in its many partnerships geared to their outreach efforts around the Richmond area.  One of their successful programs is the Fellowship and Certificate program –“the first program of it’s kind designed in partnership with the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service.”  Each year, fellows participate in an 11-month period that includes instruction and hands-on experiences about production practices, handling, marketing,  and the unique interests of each fellow.

RVA’s Urban Farm with Richmond in background
RVA’s Urban Farm tricycle mascot

For the last two years, Laura Strawn and I have been asked to come to teach the fellows about on-farm food safety risks and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).  For Laura and I, this has been one of the highlights of our annual teaching together!   We typically provide an overview of how to assess risks–either in the classroom or on the farm, followed by an on-farm walk to provide lots of opportunities for questions and answers related to risks, GAP, monitoring, corrective actions, and documentation.

Laura teaching about on-farm risks and how to identify them on the farm
Fellows in break-out groups assessing risks for different scenarios

Between 2017 and 2018, we were impressed by the way Tricycle’s RVA Urban Farm had incorporated many changes  based on our walk through, including a covered packing area with stainless steel tables, and also the growth of the farm in terms of infrastructure and planting areas.

New covered packing area in front of walk-in cooler
Newer planting area on upper part of the farm

The relationship with Tricycle Urban Agriculture has been a rewarding one for all of us, especially knowing the fellows are learning about on-farm food safety so as to best equip them in whatever their future farming-related endeavors are.  Our training demonstrates how our team is taking bigger picture, on-farm food safety principles and applying them to different situations such as urban farm settings.  Our partnership also has helped us to better understand unique challenges facing our varied stakeholders and discussing possible solutions together.  We look very forward to more opportunities to work with Tricycle Urban Agriculture in the future!

Partnerships Spotlight 1: The Conservation Fund and FRESHFARM Market

To follow up on the August 16, 2018 post, I wanted to start with some work we have been doing with The Conservation Fund and FRESHFARM Markets since early 2016.  The Conservation Fund (CF) and FRESHFARM Markets  (FFM) obtained funding from the USDA to provide food safety training and assistance with the GAP certification process for farms in the Mid-Atlantic region.  These folks reached out to Dr. Laura Strawn for on-the-ground educational support, Laura contacted me to team up with her and Rachel Pfuntner–her Lab manager at the time–and the rest is history!

Rachel (far left) and Laura (far right) assisting participants as they discuss their scenarios with one another.
Farm tour of the hydroponic production area at Tioga Farms.

Laura, Rachel,  and I held a class at Tioga Farms, PA, in March 2016.  The class included an overview of food safety risks and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), coupled with a breakout activity in which groups were given different farm scenarios to identify risks and GAPs.  We also had a tour of Tioga Farms greenhouse and packing area, which provided more opportunity to discuss on-farm risks at these different stages of the process.

Packaged tomatoes ready to be transported to different buyers.

As a follow-up to this workshop, growers were put into touch with their state extension service agencies.  Additionally, Laura, Rachel, and I were asked to conduct a similar workshop in northern Virginia.   Collaborating with CF, FFM, and our local VCE-Loudoun County colleague, Beth Sastre, we held a workshop in November 2016.  We had a great turn-out, and similar to the previous workshop, we taught about risks, GAPs, and working through the GAP certification process.

Participants working through their assigned scenario to identify specific risks and possible GAPs to mitigate those risks.

Subsequent to the second workshop, Beth and I traveled to Washington, D.C. , to visit with some of the participants from the November workshop and provide further guidance on the GAP certification process.  We visited Common Good City Farm and Little Wild Things Farm.  It was an amazing time of seeing what folks are doing in the urban farm scene!

Common Good City Farm.
Little Wild Things Farm microgreens.
Little Wild Things Farm harvesting edible flowers to be sold to high-end D.C. restaurants.

Just recently, I went to Garners Produce in Warsaw, VA.  Bernard and Dana Boyle were wonderful hosts, and shared about their farm and practices, while I led the group on a farm walk-through demonstrating the risk assessment process.  The purpose of the on-farm visit was to share with FRESHFARM Market staff some of the food safety challenges farmers face and to highlight one of their participant farms at their markets in D.C.  Click here to learn more about Garners Produce, the farm visit, and the larger project.

Amber discussing risks in the packing shed area. ©The Conservation Fund
Peg Kohring from The Conservation Fund, who traveled to Virginia from MI. ©The Conservation Fund
FRESHFARM Market staff with Bernard and Dana Boyle after we finished the farm walk through. ©The Conservation Fund.

Thank you to The Conservation Fund and FRESHFARM Market for inviting us to collaborate and be a part of the great work they are doing.  By partnering together, the Fresh Produce Food Safety Team was able to assist and support them and their growers, while at the same time develop more networks in our broader food safety outreach efforts in the region.  We are already discussing some ways we can collaborate on future projects, and we look forward to the possibilities!

Partnerships are a Vital Part of the Work of the Virginia Fresh Produce Food Safety Team

On-farm Risk Assessment at Garner’s Produce in Warsaw, VA, along with VCE-Westmoreland, Conservation Fund, and FRESHFARM Market Staff. ©The Conservation Fund

Like all the efforts within Virginia Cooperative Extension, a critical component of the work of the Virginia Fresh Produce Food Safety Team is fostering and strengthening relationships with our many stakeholders.  It is within these valued relationships that we can discuss and better understand the felt and expressed needs of the various communities in which we live, and can together find the most strategic ways to tackle the issues and help address these needs.

Sometimes, the issues represent broader-based societal concerns that are challenging to remedy.  Other times, the needs may be more related to finding ways to take complex information and skills, and to distill it down into understandable resources, applied practices, and more easy-to-follow approaches.  Again, a fundamental part of being successful is working side by side with a diversity of partners–individuals, farms, community groups, market outlets, school and university systems, state and federal agencies, non-profit groups, etc..

In the next several blog posts, we wanted to share about some of those wonderful partnerships, so we can highlight several of the projects we are actively a part of and the ways we are working together for the common good!