State Master Gardeners Knowledge and Behavior Regarding Food Safety and Good Agricultural Practices Recommendations
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Master Gardener’s (MG) are volunteers that dedicate their time and resources to complete advanced training on gardening practices. They are a valuable resource to state Cooperative Extension services, like the one in Virginia (VCE), by volunteering to share gardening knowledge with the public. MG’s assist the public in starting and maintaining personal and community fruit and vegetable gardens. Food producing gardens should be treated differently from recreational gardens. Gardening and harvesting practices that will ensure the production of safe and healthy produce need to be taught. The objective of this study is to assess MG’s knowledge of good agricultural and food safety practices, with the intent of developing an additional food safety curriculum for this audience. Virginia MG’s completed an electronic survey to assess knowledge of safe gardening practices and personal gardening behaviors, as well as to evaluate their perceptions of organic and conventionally grown foods. MG’s displayed some gardening practices considered to put foods at risk of being contamination with foodborne pathogens. Eighteen percent top dressed with fresh manure, 44% applied compost material throughout the growing period and 33% used overhead irrigation. Seventy-one and 69% of respondents considered organic foods safer or healthier than conventionally grown foods respectively. The addition of Good Agricultural Practices and food safety best practices to the MG training materials may be beneficial to the MG’s to ensure they are providing safe information to the public.