Monitoring food and ensuring consumer safety

by | Jun 15, 2022

We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Lucy Love, Produce Safety Specialist with our Food and Drug Protection Division, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!

While her family was priming tobacco on their farm in Stokes County, Lucinda (aka Lucy) Scott Love was born into the world of agriculture, not knowing that is where her journey and life passion would lie for years to come. Lucy is a Produce Safety Specialist with our Food & Drug Protection Division, where she helps administer and manage the Produce Safety Program rules and regulations across the state. Prior to her love for food safety, however, a passion for agriculture was instilled in her at a young age through her family farm.

“Growing up, my family raised tobacco, we had some animals and we grew some produce. I always loved working the garden,” Lucy said. “In 1997, I got really interested in selling produce at the county farmers market. Not only was it a fun way to make a little money, but it also gave me the opportunity to meet other local farmers.” Two years later, she started her college journey in the agriculture department at N.C. State University where she continued to work on the family farm and expand her ag education. “I was taught to love and appreciate the farm life and a hard work ethic was instilled in me because of that,” she said. “I was formed on this farm. It made me who I am today. So, I knew even at a young age, that agriculture was where I was meant to be.”

In 2003, Lucy started her professional career in a grant-funded position with the NCDA&CS Emergency Programs Division. While in this position, she worked with a variety of poultry farmers across the state and learned a lot about on-farm practices, disease management and more. After completing her term in that temporary position and working 3.5 years with the Stokes County Health Department, Lucy found her way back to the NCDA&CS working as a Food Regulatory Specialist with our Food & Drug Protection Division. “I worked as a Food Regulatory Specialist from 2007 to 2016 and I really enjoyed that position because it allowed me to network with a variety of people across the department and instilled in me a true passion for food safety, which has helped further the success of my position today,” she said.

In 2016, Lucy started her current position with the Food & Drug Protection Division working with the Produce Safety Program and farmers across the state. Although a typical day for her depends highly on what fruits and vegetables are in-season, Lucy is always working with produce farms across the state to ensure they are in compliance with the FDA Produce Safety Rule. “The Produce Safety Rule is a national based standard that looks at a vast array of farm practices on produce farms that are subject to the rule and covered commodities to ensure consumer safety in the final product,” Lucy said. “We look at things such as worker training, health and hygiene, water quality, growing, harvesting, packing & holding activities, sanitation practices, on-farm wildlife plans, farm records & maps, etc.” Lucy and her co-workers are constantly visiting farms either for On-Farm Readiness Reviews with N.C. State Extension or simply for educational farm visits to help producers navigate the ins and outs of the program itself. “This program is all about outreach and education before and while we regulate,” she said, “and what we are asking of our farmers is, most of the time, already being done, but they have to understand the importance of this certification both to their farm as well as their customers.”

The Produce Safety Program is proactively based, meaning that Lucy and the Produce Safety Team are seeking to help farmers instill better food safety practices on the farm before problems arise, not condemn them afterwards. “We are not here to put anyone out of business, but we are here to help farmers and agriculture industry producers succeed and provide the safest product possible to consumers,” Lucy said. In addition to the tasks listed above Lucy and her co-workers also attend commodity group meetings and participate on various other agriculture boards to ensure education about the program is top priority across the state.

Lucy truly loves every aspect of her job, from education and outreach to visiting and networking with farmers across the state. She also continues to help her family on their farm in Stokes County. “I am passionate about both agriculture and food safety, so this job is perfect for me because I get to combine both those passions on a daily basis,” she said. “Plus, I am always learning something new in this job and building more relationships with these amazing individuals in our state’s agriculture industry. It’s personal to me. I’ve always loved it and this job truly is a farm girls dream!”

As her favorite T-Shirt says, “where would we be without agriculture? Naked and hungry.” Lucy truly believes in the foundation of farming to everyday life, which includes her role with the Produce Safety Program to ensure products offered to customers across the state and beyond are as safe and healthy as they can be. “I am proud to simply be a small part of the community that impacts the world at large,” she said. “It is very humbling and a true source of pride.”

When she is not working, Lucy can be found spending time with her family and friends, attending music events, concerts, hiking or on a road trip across the country. She also finds peace at home with her eight beehives, where she can truly find escape from the everyday stresses of life. Join us in thanking Lucy for all of her hard work ensuring that farmers provide high-quality products for you and your family every day!