Three years after starting the Master Food Preservation volunteer program, New Mexico State University has taken it to a new level by offering the train-the-trainer course online.
“We have done different versions of this program, but this is the first time we have presented it online,” said Nancy Flores, NMSU Extension food technology specialist. “It has allowed us to expand the class not only in how we teach it, but also who is able to participate.”
Master Food Preservation is a volunteer program where people become trained in the areas of canning, freezing and dehydrating food, and then assist family consumer science Extension agents in various ways, such as helping during classes and having booths at growers’ markets to answer questions.
After receiving a request about the training from two people living in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ Extension Family and Consumer Sciences department developed a six-week online class using a curriculum created by Washington State University.
“Two graduate students, Rebecca Mijares and Adetoye Abodunrin, helped us develop this class,” Flores said. “We met via the Internet for an hour-and-a-half every Friday to cover the science involved in preserving food.”
That training concluded with a three-day lab at the Extension office in Albuquerque where the students reviewed the classwork with the “So Easy to Preserve” video developed by the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia and then practiced the various ways of preserving food.
The class included two Texans, three new NMSU Extension county agents, two NMSU graduate students and two Albuquerque residents. Each of the class members wants to share with others how to preserve fresh food in their homes.
“I’d heard about the master food preservation program and checked with Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension about the program, but they don’t teach it,” said Cindy Bighorse of Saginaw, Texas, who is teaching food preservation classes at Northwest Tarrant County College. “Of the various state Extension programs providing the volunteer master program, New Mexico was the closest.”
“We’re proud and honored that NMSU developed this online class so we could participate,” said Michael Fox of Fort Worth, who includes food preservation in emergency preparedness classes that he teaches. “The teachers are subject matter experts, and it has been great fun working with our classmates.”
The online course has also allowed people within New Mexico to participate without the additional cost of traveling to a central location.
Several New Mexico county Extension offices only have one agent. Historically, these positions were filled by men, but recently three women have been hired in rural counties.
These agents are responsible for serving their community in the three areas of Extension – agriculture, consumer and family science and 4-H youth development.
“If the Extension agent is unable to answer people’s questions they will send them to agents in other counties,” said Cindy Davies, director of the Extension office in Bernalillo County. “It is nice that these three new agents are taking the food preservation classes so they will be knowledgeable to answer questions, test pressure canners and even do a class in their county should there be a request for it.”
Currently, the Master Food Preservation programs exists in Bernalillo, Grant, Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Valencia counties with 50 volunteers participating.
Preserving food properly prevents foodborne illnesses. Nigeria native Abodunrin has seen the need for food safety in his country. He is studying at NMSU to obtain knowledge that he will share when he returns home.
“I know the importance of getting this information out to people,” said Abodunrin, who has a master’s degree in agricultural Extension. “In Nigeria, and around the world, people have foodborne illnesses because they don’t have enough education or knowledge about how the illness is caused by spoiled food. I am learning about food preservation so I can help implement policy in Nigeria and the world in general.”