When I began my produce inspection career, in 1976, I never envisioned years later I would be in a position to teach others using my produce experience. I began inspecting produce while employed for New York State Department of Agriculture. My first position with the USDA began in 1979, as an inspector on the Philadelphia Terminal Market.
The inspection activity involved commercial produce deliveries, as well as the inspection of imported commodities, most notably Table Grapes, Stone Fruit, Apples and Onions, mostly from Chile. The busy inspection activity led to many inspectors being hired during my time working on the market. Training these inspectors became the norm, teaching them how to interpret the U.S. Grade Standards and the Inspection Instruction Handbooks.Teaching the new inspectors to properly identify the defects and to make a judgment as to whether the defect should be scored, as damage or as serious damage became challenging.Teaching “Common Sense” was essential.
After working out of the Philadelphia office for seven years I moved to Harrisburg, PA and later to Albany, NY. With the change in location also came a change in training techniques. I moved from a “hands on” approach to a more formal lecture method of training.Digital pictures were taken and digital media became part of everyday life. By inserting the media into formal lessons I was now able to emphasize inspection uniformity throughout my lessons. By using the same picture I was able to explain the scoring guidelines and criteria for the specific defect, from inspector to inspector, from class to class.
In 2001, the USDA Fresh Products Branch created a National Training and Development Center, in Fredericksburg, VA, I was fortunate to be placed at the Training Center from its inception and I was allowed to develop produce inspection training lessons to be utilized by USDA licensed inspectors as well as for Industry Training Events.
The Industry training classes were held throughout the year at the Training Center and at specific requests, individual produce warehouses or distribution centers. These classes were developed to train produce buyers, salespeople, and quality control/assurance inspectors.
This experience has given me first hand knowledge of the industry’s needs pertaining to produce inspection. I have seen and heard the participants’ comments regarding the types of training they found beneficial and have been able to adapt to their desires and requests.
By listening I have established a working knowledge of effective training methods, using formal training supplemented by “hands on” training.Inspecting commodities along side the participants, teaching proper cutting methods when looking for internal defects, sampling techniques to ensure inspection results are accurate for the lot(s) being inspected, and identifying defects and their tolerances, has proved to be very rewarding. This experience has given me the confidence to train individuals on how to inspect produce based on Industry-specific Standards and/or U.S. Grade Standards.
I have over 34 years experience in the agricultural industry, both domestically and internationally, developing and applying inspection, grading, and marketing standards for fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, pulses, and legumes.
I began my agricultural career in 1977, with the USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) as a grain sampler/technician later becoming a grain inspector.
In 1983, I transferred to the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Division (FFV) of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) as a produce inspector in Philadelphia. I later served as Officer-in-Charge of the Savannah, Georgia terminal market (1984-87) and then as the Federal Supervisor for the State of Connecticut and Officer-in-charge of the Hartford terminal market (1987) prior to moving to Washington, DC as a Marketing Specialist with the FFV Standardization Section. In 1990, I became the Deputy Director of the Fresh Products Field Operations Section, with primary duties for management and oversight of the U.S. Peanut Inspection Program.
I returned to FGIS, now the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration, in 1994 as a Marketing Specialist with responsibility for food grains such as wheat. In addition to coordinating numerous end-use quality research projects, I was also involved in several international technical assistance and standards development projects in Africa, South America, and Ukraine.
Early in 2001, I became the International Standards Coordinator with USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Program. In this position, I represented the interests of American agriculture and the U.S. government in dealing with international standards organizations such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Late in 2001, I assumed the duties as a Training Specialist at the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Program’s newly established Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There, I instructed both new and seasoned official inspection personnel, sister agency employees, international partners/cooperators, and members of the produce industry in the uniform application of grading standards and procedures with regard to fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I also co-authored USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Division Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP) program, serving as one of its primary instructors.
In 2007, I accepted the position as Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency office in Monroe, Michigan, where I closed my USDA, retiring in December 2011.
Of all of my experiences with USDA, serving as a Trainer for fruit and vegetable inspection was my real area of passion. It afforded me an opportunity to develop produce inspection training materials utilized by USDA licensed inspectors as well as by the produce industry. Providing inspection and standards training for produce buyers, salespeople, and quality control/assurance inspectors also gave me first hand knowledge of industry needs pertaining to quality assessment of fresh products.
My experiences have provided me an outstanding working knowledge of effective training methods, using both formal classroom as well as “hands on” training. My goal is to impart my experience and knowledge to assist the produce industry to better determine quality and condition of commodities and shipments prior to requesting official inspection services from USDA. As inspection fees have skyrocketed in recent years, knowing when and when not to request an inspection is a money-saver. With that in mind, proper training to recognize and quantify produce defects is a great first step in enhancing your bottom line! IPT stands ready to assist you in this endeavor.