By Daniel Weller, Patrick Baur, and Aaron Adalja

Recent studies have suggested that on-farm food safety practices can have unexpected economic and ecological impacts. Despite the potential for negative consequences, limited data are available on the costs and benefits of implementing specific practices. Comanaging farms for food safety and sustainability is further complicated because farms are linked to adjacent environments so that management decisions can have unexpected ecological, economic and food safety consequences. A comprehensive understanding of the links between agricultural and adjacent environments is key to ensuring environmental health, sustainability, and food safety. A new survey, funded by the Atkinson Center at Cornell University, promises to give a clearer picture of these linkages and what this means for growers.

Specifically, to meet this need, a new collaborative research project between researchers at Cornell University, the University of California, and the University of Rochester is reaching out to growers in the Eastern United States to fill out a survey on food safety. The survey asks for information on how monetary and labor costs associated with on-farm food safety, agricultural water use and treatment, pest management and conservation practices. The survey also provides an opportunity for participating farmers to report any obstacles or difficulties they have encountered. Filling out the survey should take about 20-30 minutes, and all responses are confidential.

The project will not only identify grower costs associated with various farm practices, the information generated will also be integrated, using big data analytics, into models to quantify trade-offs between different grower aims including food safety, conservation and profit. This model will then be used to develop guidelines for how to best co-manage produce farms for these aims. The survey is a key part of this process, as it will clarify how costs vary among farms of different sizes, cropping systems/types, location, and organic certification status. The research will also shed light on how voluntary third-party audits, conservation incentives and other initiatives affect growers.

The results of this survey should point to opportunities for improving food safety and conservation on-farms while reducing costs for growers.

If you grow vegetables, fruits, or nuts in the Eastern United States and would like to participate in this effort, please visit the following website: The person most directly in charge of managing food safety should take the survey. All responses are confidential and reported results will be fully anonymized.

The first 300 people to complete the survey will be eligible for a $15 e-gift cards. The survey will be open through May 31st, 2020.

For further information, please contact the project directors, Dr. Daniel Weller (, Aaron Adalja (, or Patrick Baur (

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