BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Ohio State University Extension is offering bilingual training of proper on-farm food handling techniques to mainly aid employers and the growing number of Hispanic workers entering Ohio's workforce.
"Food distributors and chains who buy farm products are paying more attention to farm safety and worker training that can prevent produce contamination and mishandling," said Francisco Espinoza, an OSU Extension Educator with the Agricultural Business Enhancement Center Ag and Hort Labor Education Program. "The main goal of the programs is to increase awareness and adoption of sound agricultural practices by Ohio producers and their employees."
The training sessions, along with educational materials and hands-on demonstrations, are presented in English and Spanish to workers, crew leaders and management staff on a variety of topics including personal hygiene practices, hand washing and prevention of production contamination.
"The No. 1 cause of produce contamination is probably improper hand-washing techniques," said Espinoza. "The lodging of foreign objects in food products is also an issue."
"Food Safety Begins on the Farm" training sessions are part of the Ohio Specialty Crop Food Safety Initiative — a partnership between OSU Extension's ABE Center, Mid-American Ag and Hort Services, the Center for Innovative Food Technology and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Fresh fruit and vegetable growers interested in receiving on-site training sessions can contact Francisco Espinoza at (800) 358-4678 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Espinoza is also developing training sessions that target Hispanic culture in the workplace. The workshops are designed to teach labor skills to help ease the transition of Hispanics in the workforce. It is estimated that 14,000 Hispanics are a part of Ohio's agricultural labor force.