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The Weblog is a forum for students to share up to the moment news stories and narrative experiences from the Berea College Farm. We hope you will return often to this feature of our online store.
In order to tell you about our unique operation,it is crucial to introduce you to the remarkable labor program of Berea College.
As you may or may not know, each student at Berea College is granted a full tuition scholarship upon acceptance. Part of the contract is a requirement to work on campus for the duration of their enrollment. Students work a minimum of ten hours a week and positions vary from residence facilities assistants (janitors) to beekeepers, cooks to accountants; Berea College students do it all. In fact, the College depends greatly on the work of its students. This is especially true for the Berea College Farms and Gardens.
Students who work in these areas devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to ensure the success of our operations. As with any agricultural business, this is a full time job and requires much responsibility. Students who work on the farm and in the greenhouses know that weekend commitments and evening hours are part of the deal.
They love what they do … And it shows.
We are committed to excellence in every aspect of our operation and a great deal of this comes from our student workers. From the pig pit to the hoop houses, diligence is our modus operandi.
Kitchen Clearance Both Frustrating and Rewarding
Doug Gabbard, Senior Health Environmentalist, scrutinized every inch of the kitchen, opening floor-level cabinets and peeking behind refrigerator doors. He hunted down thermometers and bleach, checked for hand-washing signs and sound plumbing. Jotting some final notes, a satisfied Gabbard awarded Berea College Farm its re-certification with a score of 99—perfect except for a leaky faucet.
The permit allows students and staff to prepare and sell hot foods out of the farm’s mobile kitchen during market hours. Farmer’s Market Temporary Food Service Establishment is one of six certifications held by the farm, its employees or both.
Requirements for obtaining food permits vary in complexity. When three student workers recently applied for permission to hand out product samples at market, they completed and submitted a worksheet to show they had read the sampling regulations.
However, the Food Sampling certification also required at least one supervisor to meet more stringent guidelines by attending a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training class and passing a test.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Department also has one certified Food Service Worker, and six Food Managers who received classroom instruction. The stack of necessary permits represents a huge investment in time and money.
Jessa Turner, Farm Marketing Manager, estimates that keeping up-to-date with its six certifications has cost the college farm a week of labor. She says she wishes there was a two or three-day class where you could get certified for everything.
Christie L. Green, Public Information Officer for the Madison County Health Department, says the state allots specific regulation and enforcement responsibilities to the local health departments.
“Local health departments do not set the standards or choose which ones to regulate,” Green notes.
Doug Gabbard, Madison County Health Department, says responsibilities are scattered among separate agencies because each has different resources and skills.
Despite the inconvenience to farmers, Gabbard believes the certification processes are worthwhile. Pointing to the role of food safety measures in leading Americans away from the unhealthy, even deadly, practices that predominated around the turn of the century, he concludes that enforcing food safety is a life-saving occupation.
Gabbard doesn’t know if the rigorous inspection and application processes deter some small farmers, but, he says, “it’s all for the public health.”