Partners for Food Safety

George C. Jones George C. Jones (right) of the Indiana State Department of Health turned to Purdue Extension to receive training about good agricultural practices to reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

The Food Protection Program of the Indiana State Department of Health is all about helping produce growers and packers keep food safe for consumers. Purdue Extension expertise has played a large role in the program.

Purdue Extension trained about 20 state program staff members in a course called Good Agricultural Practices from A to Z. Known as GAPs, the good agricultural practices course gave Food Protection Program staff important information they need to advise growers and packers on how to reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks (such as from Salmonella), said George C. Jones, deputy director.

"The training was a very worthwhile endeavor for our staff members, who better understand the many factors that can affect the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables," Jones said. "It has helped our program to focus on important food protection principles and to offer the produce industry sound advice."

For example, staff from the Food Protection Program and Purdue Extension presented workshops about melon-packing-shed sanitation procedures during the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons.

"The workshops have been well received by the industry, and growers and packers seem to really appreciate our efforts to bring the knowledge directly to them—and in a nonthreatening way," Jones said.

"The training will help to ensure that wholesome produce is delivered to both retail and wholesale markets in Indiana and beyond our borders," Jones said. "We look forward to ongoing collaboration with Purdue. Offering the produce industry best practices can help growers and packers to have successful businesses and at the same time make sure consumers are offered safe and healthy food choices."

By Keith Robinson

Paying It Forward

Purdue Extension in Clinton County works with a large Hispanic population. One of the success stories is Reyna, who first started taking English classes, received her GED and now is a community health worker or Promotora de Salud. (Video by Joan Crow)

When Reyna Bracamontes moved to Frankfort, Indiana, nearly a decade ago, she wanted nutrition information for her growing family. She got that information in educational resources from Purdue Extension.

Reyna Bracamontes
Reyna Bracamontes earned her GED with the help of Purdue Extension and now is a community heath volunteer. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Since then, Bracamontes has participated in many Purdue Extension programs, including high school equivalency classes. "I was very, very happy when I came here," she said. "I finally got my GED. It was hard in the beginning, but they told me, 'You can do it.'"

Today, she's the one educating her friends and neighbors. She is a Promotora de Salud, or community health worker, for Purdue Extension. She connects Frankfort's Latino community with relevant health information.

"People in the community know who Reyna is and know that she's a resource," said Claudia Houchen, Purdue Extension-Clinton County minority health coordinator. "Becoming part of the community is not just about living in it, and going to work, but actually volunteering and being involved. Reyna went and found the resources, and now she's a resource herself."

By Joan Crow

Workshops Pay Off

Betsy Bower Betsy Bower, an agronomist with Ceres Solutions, says workshops provided by the Purdue Diagnostic Training and Research Center have given her an advantage in her day-to-day work. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Hands-on training and experience are essential for successful professionals. And that's why Betsy Bower says she attends workshops at the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center (DTC).

"This is not death by PowerPoint," said the agronomist for Ceres Solutions, an agribusiness based in western Indiana. "They give you a picture of a problem in your head, so when you see it, you know what it is and can test for it."

The DTC has sponsored more than 500 workshops for over 22,000 individuals since it began in 1986. Those who attend DTC programs affect nearly 35 million acres of Midwest cropland. The center also produces a series of agricultural field guides (including the Purdue Extension Corn & Soybean Field Guide) that have sold more than half a million copies.

That training is especially important for young professionals, said Bower, who has been an agronomist for about 20 years. "When I started out several years ago, I attended every session to start that experience base," she said. "You really get to touch it, feel it, taste it."

What she learned in the workshops helped her in her day-to-day work. "It allowed me to see, 'hey, this is what low soil pH looks like on corn; this is what it looks on beans.' I could then go out and help a farmer, diagnose what was going on," she said.

Bower said the learning and professional experience gave her a broader, deeper level of agronomic knowledge to share when she provides technical training to her company's employees and their farmer customers. Bower, who also serves on the DTC's advisory committee, still attends periodic DTC workshops and says the programs are practical. "They are a great value for the dollar spent."

By Kevin Smith

Raising Livestock Humanely

Norman Voyles Jr.
Norman Voyles Jr. attended a Purdue Extension beef management seminar that featured Temple Grandin, an expert on humane treatment of livestock. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Norman Voyles Jr. truly enjoys the work he does on the Voyles Farms, Inc. grain and livestock farm that he and his brother, Jim, own near Martinsville, Indiana. And he credits a Purdue Extension program with helping him stay current on best practices for humane handling of cattle.

Voyles was among 200 producers who attended a beef management seminar at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds in Bedford. The seminar featured Temple Grandin, an international livestock behavior expert at Colorado State University, who spoke about beef cattle handling techniques. Other speakers included livestock specialists and researchers from Indiana.

Voyles said he left the seminar with a better understanding of cattle behavior. He learned, for example, about the animals' visual range and their perception of humans. This isn't mere trivia—Voyles said he can use that information to process his herd more efficiently and ensure that he's treating the animals humanely.

"As fewer and fewer people in our society have personal experience with the raising of livestock, consumers of our products want some assurances that the animal protein they eat was raised in a humane manner," Voyles said. "Workshops such as this help to reinforce the techniques that we can use to reduce stress for both livestock and livestock producers."

By Emma Hopkins

Small Conference, Big Benefits

Tamara Hanlin
Tamara Hanlin is the latest link in the chain of Hanlin family members who have worked their eastern Indiana farm. The homestead behind Hanlin was built by her great-great-grandfather John in 1836. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Tamara Hanlin got some big help at Purdue Extension's Indiana Small Farm Conference, which offers expert advice each year to small farm owners that helps them make their operations more successful.

It's not that Hanlin needed to learn how to raise and care for her family's approximately 100 head of Angus beef cattle in eastern Indiana just west of Portland. The family has been doing that for many years. What she wanted to learn more about was how to better market the beef. At the conference, she got what she came for, learning more about how to work with processors and how to use social media in marketing.

"Through the beef marketing class, I really learned a lot about the actual processing and how to better talk and work with the local processor so we can do a much better job of marketing our beef product," she said. "We also have started to market directly to consumers, at least to a small degree. We wouldn't have been able to do that without the knowledge I gained from sitting in on those sessions."

Hanlin also left the conference with an idea to grow sweet corn on three acres of the farm and sell it—something she had never done. She considers that an added benefit of what she gained from attending the event. "I just dove right into it," she said. "And that's only because I went to the Small Farms Conference."

By Keith Robinson

Winery, Purdue Grow Deep Roots

Jan Huber, Greg Huber, Ted Huber and Dana Huber
Huber's Orchard and Winery is a family operation that includes (from left) Jan Huber, Greg Huber, Ted Huber and Dana Huber. The Hubers rely on Purdue for expert advice. (Photo courtesy of the Huber family)

Ted and Dana Huber of Huber's Orchard and Winery in Starlight, Indiana, cultivate 22 varieties of wine grapes on their seventh-generation farm. They process more than 500,000 pounds of grapes a year, making them the state's largest wine grape producers. Since the 1980s, they have counted on members of the Purdue Wine Grape Team, part of Purdue Extension, for expert counsel on matters of the vine and cellar.

"We feel free to call the team at any time with questions about the vineyards or wine quality," Dana said. "Our interactions are always productive."

Purdue Extension horticulturalist Bruce Bordelon fields the Hubers' questions about grape varietals, and enologist Christian Butzke and enology specialist Jill Blume help them stay current on wine production techniques and perfect new styles of wine.

The Hubers have put Purdue Extension information to good use. Huber wines have claimed more than 900 medals in wine competitions, including the Wine of the Year award at the 2013 Indy International Wine Competition.

The Hubers also raise other fruits and vegetables and Christmas trees, and maintain a thriving business with a café and a wine tasting room. For issues in the orchard, they turn to Purdue Extension horticulturalist Peter Hirst. When it comes to their agrotourism business, they rely on Purdue Extension horticulturalist and agricultural economist Jennifer Dennis.

The relationship with the Hubers has proven fruitful for Purdue Extension as well. The Hubers often host Indiana Wine Grape Council meetings and workshops for farmers looking to improve their agrotourism business.

By Natalie van Hoose

Volunteers Cultivate Community

Purdue Master Gardener Program logo 

Patrick Lantz gets a lot out of gardening.

"I get the opportunity to be creative, grow something and produce something that I can see and enjoy," Lantz said.

And gardening gives Lantz, a Purdue Extension Master Gardener volunteer, an opportunity to give something to his community. He designed and maintained a demonstration garden in the Purdue Master Gardener demonstration gardens in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The gardens offer more than just a relaxing pastime for volunteers; they teach members of the community about gardening. Allen County's 320 active Master Gardener volunteers donated more than 18,000 hours in the community last year.

The "Welcome Home" garden is a tribute to veterans. The sign out front reads, "A garden to honor and thank our nation's service members and their families." The garden has yielded more than 400 pounds of fresh produce for a homeless shelter that also serves veterans.

By Kelsey Getzin

Farmers Learn from Each Other

Mark Kingma
Mark Kingma uses the On-Farm Network to help him make the most economical and environmentally friendly nitrogen applications. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

To Mark Kingma, farmers must have two qualities of equal importance. They must be profitable, and they must be good stewards of the land. For the past four years, the Jasper County farmer has turned to Purdue Extension for help in strengthening those qualities.

Kingma operates James Kingma and Son Inc., a corn and soybean farm in Wheatfield, Indiana, that was handed down to him by his father. The Indiana On-Farm Network, a program that relies on Purdue Extension, helped him fine-tune his nitrogen application practices to increase yield in an economically conscious and environmentally friendly way.

"We can learn from our mistakes, but we can also learn from the experience of other farmers in this program, because we look at maps of all the other farms that are involved in it," Kingma said. "I saw what they did, what works and what didn't work for them, and used that knowledge to make decisions about my practices."

The On-Farm Network allows farmers to use precision agriculture technology to conduct research on their own farms. This enables them to evaluate the effectiveness and economic pros and cons of different management practices such as nutrient application rates.

Kingma learned that he can get just as much yield by adding less nitrogen, which saves him some money and reduces his farm's environmental footprint.

By Emma Hopkins