In today’s food service industry, managers and staff with knowledge of safe food preparation have an edge that not only benefits their customers but improves the earning potential of their employees. To assure that our food is prepared in a clean and safe environment by well-trained management and staff, UF/IFAS Extension Marion County offers a food safety and quality program to provide the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification training and exams. Extension food safety experts conduct comprehensive training on topics including foodborne illness, food contaminants, personal hygiene, safe handling, safe facilities and pest management, food safety management systems, and sanitation.
Once participants pass the ServSafe Manager’s exam, they receive national certification valid for five years. In 2015, at one Marion County high school’s Commercial Food and Culinary Arts program, 31 of the 36 students who completed the training and took the ServSafe Manager’s exam passed. The students who earned their certification could have an annual earning potential of $53,726.40 as food service managers, compared to those of food preparation cooks ($21,611.20) and fast food cooks ($20,612.80). ServSafe Certification training is just one of the many ways UF/IFAS Extension is helping to grow Marion County's economy.
UF/IFAS’ Dr. Amy Simonne conducts a class in safe food handling. UF/IFAS File Photo
Many north Florida farmers have been interested in growing a rotation crop that could withstand the summer heat and be harvested by machine between seasons of corn, peanut, and cotton. As a result, UF/IFAS researchers have been experimenting with growing sesame as a viable crop since 2011. According to Diane Rowland, a crop physiologist with the UF/IFAS agronomy department, sesame offers benefits including drought tolerance, nematode resistance, pollinator diversity, and potential as an economically viable rotational crop in north Florida. The UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU) in Citra, Marion County is one of the sites of continued research and trials that have helped Extension agents and growers become familiar with different sesame varieties, planting configurations, irrigation needs, and nutrient partitioning.
Photo: UF/IFAS researcher in field of sesame at the Plant Research and Education Unit in Citra. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones