By Melanie Arthur, NFU Intern

“Parking lot, go ahead and blow your horns. Let everybody know that you are here!” food safety trainer and technical service provider Darrell McGuire shouted at the crowd. Alabama farmers and ranchers – who had drove their vehicles up to the Bethel Spring Missionary Baptist Church to hear speakers present on cattle operations, natural resource and habitat management – leaned on their horns, kicking off The United Christian Community Association’s (TUCCA) drive-up workshop with an enthusiastic start.   

McGuire and Andrew Williams, TUCCA’s CEO and food safety project director, designed the novel way to host a workshop with an in-person element, all while still meeting COVID 19 rules and regulations. “[We were] trying to develop a system to do this work, being that we’re in a pandemic and all the restrictions we have,” Williams said. Attendees remained in their vehicles, routes of travel were in place for presenters, hand sanitizing stations were available, and McGuire livestreamed the event on Facebook for those who preferred to participate from home.

At the center of every interaction TUCCA has with local farmers is a holistic approach to farm education. “Knowing your audience is really important, and once you really know them, then you design your event to fit your audience,” Williams said. TUCCA specifically identified the speakers and the topics covered in the workshop to meet the needs of local farmers. “The farmer already knows their farm, and they already know what they need. The key to it is to take what the farmers say they need and try to take USDA practices or some type of opportunity and marry those two together, and that’s how we help farmers,” Williams said.  

For instance, workshop attendees honked their car horns to affirm that their farms included both livestock and vegetables during regional extension agent Dr. Kristin Woods’ presentation on integrating these two types of operations. Woods talked about ways to ensure that integrating livestock and vegetables is both economically sustainable and safe, citing a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that confirmed the contamination of a E.coli and lettuce outbreak was windblown from a nearby cow/calf operation. “And that hit home because…we have tons of cow/calf operations here in Alabama,” Woods said. 

Attendees also learned from a husband-wife team about their cattle operation, a Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) agent about conservation assistance, and a farmer who has implemented NRCS practices. Visit the Local Food Safety Collaborative’s Facebook page to watch the workshop livestream.

Like what you’ve read? Join the conversation at National Farmers Union’s Facebook page.

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