Distinguished Service in the Mushroom Industry

By Jodi Gauker

Sara Manning has been awarded the 2016 Chester County Ag Council’s Distinguished Service Award, announced at this month’s Commissioner Meeting.

Sara has dedicated over 20 years to the mushroom industry here in Chester County as the Managing Editor of Mushroom News and her role in driving business and the industry forward at the American Mushroom Institute office in Avondale.

The Ag Council has bestowed the award on a dedicated member of the agriculture community since 1989.

Sara is no stranger to AgConnect. She engaged the group back in 2012 when there was a need for increased workplace safety trainings on mushroom farms.

Through a grant from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the PA Department of Agriculture, AgConnect and the AMI/OSHA Alliance committee went to work, developing and delivering trainings including: onsite hazards, electrical hazards, lock out tag out, and supervisor leadership trainings.

We initially projected 240 mushroom industry employees would be trained in workplace and food safety. At completion, 420 employees representing 35 employers participated in one of 32 trainings that were held throughout the grant period.

A grant in 2014 allowed AgConnect and AMI to again partner, bringing the workplace safety training directly to the farms through phone apps that can be accessed anywhere on the farm and allow employees to receive a consistent, required training without leaving the workplace.

These quick and easy apps provide short, informative trainings, and follow up with a quiz to check for understanding. The apps are available for iPhones and Androids, available through the Apple store and Google Play.

As of October 18, 2016, the English version of the app (at the time, only available through Apple Store) had 238 impressions, while the Spanish version had 168 impressions (based on ITunes Analytics).

The training can also be viewed on a computer through the AMI website: www.americanmushroom.org.

In addition to the apps, the 2014 grant provided updated training opportunities in First Aid and CPR and supervisor leadership trainings. 87 employees from 12 different companies received their First Aid and CPR certification, and 99 employees representing 17 different mushroom farm businesses and packing operations completed the supervisor training. The course was extremely well received.

Survey feedback included comments such as, “I now understand what it really means to be a supervisor.”  Other comments included, “I learned to be a better leader and help improve aspects in my company…I learned how to solve specific problems.”

Because of Sara’s thoughtfulness and leadership, AgConnect was able to play a small part in helping mushroom farms become safer workplace environments.

AgConnect is a vibrant network of farmers, business owners, and service providers connecting farmers to the business resources, training, and financing to grow business and promote smart agricultural economic development. AgConnect is an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council, funded in part by the private sector and with grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

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