While the United States is recognized across the planet as an agricultural powerhouse, it is sometimes easy to forget other countries struggle to have the same products and emphasis on food safety as what can be found in this country.
Jaymee Zabienski, an Oklahoma State University biosystems and agricultural engineering graduate student from Tulsa, Oklahoma, served two weeks this summer as the needed volunteer on a Farmer-to-Farmermission trip to Jamaica for the U.S. Agency for International Development. This project was designed to help budding agricultural-based Jamaican companies create a facility meeting the standards of Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, while also expanding the economic opportunity of their rural community.
“Jamaica’s agriculture sector is increasingly turning its sights on the export of value-added products,” Zabienski said. “Given the new trend, a group of producers sought technical assistance from a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in designing a floor plan and operating procedures for a facility that complies with GMP and HACCP standards.”
Zabienski visited with three companies – Dussard Export Co., Broughton Foods and Alligator Pond Processors. From jams and jellies to yams and sweet potatoes, each business boasted its own set of products and production challenges.
She also presented food safety-based topics to the business owners, including basic food preservation, quality, water treatment and conservation, sanitation, and proper handling and storage of raw materials.
In addition to food safety, Zabienski offered business management information such as record keeping, marketing strategies, business plan outlines, material selection and market research.
“The food safety standards discussed, along with material dispersed, will aid in their mission to complete their vision,” she said. “Proper training of their employees will allow for the highest quality products and maintaining proper records will help in this process.”
PowerPoint presentations, hands-on learning, and direct observation and analysis were all tools Zabienski utilized while working with the three companies.
Future action might include several volunteer assignments to help with the construction of the facilities and basic safety checks.
Zabienski said she appreciated the kindness and ambition exhibited by all three of her host companies during her stay. She also said she is excited to see what the future holds for their programs.
“The country of Jamaica is beautiful, with wonderfully vibrant people,” she said. “While the experience was a happy one, it was also incredibly humbling. There are many things taken for granted as someone who grew up with many opportunities available that aren’t [in Jamaica].”
Tim Bowser, Zabienski’s advisor, OSU Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center food engineer, and OSU Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering professor, describes her as a knowledgeable and enthusiastic individual. He said she has a unique gift for being able to combine both traits and help others, like the developing companies in Jamaica.
“We are very proud of Jaymee and the way she represented her home department, FAPC and the university,” Bowser said. “I feel privileged to work with Jaymee and am humbled by her actions to reach out and care for those in need.”
FAPC, a part of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mandy Gross | FAPC Communications Services | firstname.lastname@example.org