By Cara Fraver, Business Services Director, National Young Farmers Coalition
These case studies are not nearly as much fun as having a beer with a farmer friend and getting to ask all of the nitty gritty questions about how they’ve changed their farm over the years. However, I tried to ask the questions that a farmer like you might ask.
We know that your typical produce safety training is heavy on PowerPoints and short of the details about HOW to implement the changes. (We know this because we put on a lot of those trainings and while we try to pepper them with good specific examples, time is short and you could always use more. P.S. We also wrote a guidebook on these “hows.”) So we sat down to talk with four farmers about the ways that they’ve handled food safety issues on their farms. Two of these farmers are also certified to deliver the Produce Safety Alliance grower course, so they’re quite knowledgeable about the Rule, too! In all of these conversations, we cover some basics and try to dive into a specific topic.
Topp Fruits, LLC was the GAPs certified farm that we spoke with. Many of the growers in our network aren’t required by their buyers to seek this certification, but Harrison Topp has the experience to describe the process first hand. He also talked about the process of writing a food safety plan from a growers’ perspective rather than an academic perspective. Harrison and his partner Stacia Cannon integrated grazing sheep between their fruit trees this year, which works with their food safety plan and audit.
Demetrious Milling is the co-manager of Love is Love Farm just outside of Atlanta. Like many young farmers, they have a creative land tenure situation. In this case, the farm is located at the center of a co-housing development and CSA members, volunteers, workshares, and community members are frequently contributing to the farm and creating a broad sense of community. We talked about how they balance that community building with food safety concerns.
Mike Nolan of Mountain Roots Produce built a new pack shed in 2017. We talked about that space, the choices he and his partner Mindy Perkovich made, the costs associated, product flow, surfaces, and drainage. We love this topic and we know that almost all of the farmers we know want to make upgrades to their washing and packing spaces. (Most of these conversations had some interesting tidbits about each farm’s washing and packing spaces and I couldn’t help but include them!)
We spoke with Joan Olsen of Prairie Drifter Farm about worker training. Joan and her partner, Nick, are both retired teachers. We’ve tried to focus on the food safety aspects of their training here, but there’s a lot to learn in the conversation that goes beyond food safety–conversation about learning styles, retraining, being super clear in both verbal words and writing, and just generally creating a farm where the employees feel heard and respected.
All of these farms will be Qualified Exempt from the Produce Safety Rule right now but are making strides to grow healthy food for their customers. We hope that you are able to glean some insights about how other small farmers have improved food safety on their farms.
Check out all of National Young Farmer Coalition’s new food safety case studies to learn how four small farms are building strong produce safety practices into their businesses and complying with the new Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule.