New report helps farmers with food safety planning

OCJ, 10/27/17

A publication released by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.

Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms” features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.

“Our hope is that farmers, whether or not they are certified organic, will see themselves in these profiles,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA Education Program Director. “We want these case studies to give produce growers ideas of what they can do and make food safety planning less intimidating.”

Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in Covered Produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.

“Food safety is everyone’s concern,” Hunt said. “But it shouldn’t mean farmers have to quit raising fruits and vegetables because they find the compliance process confusing or think it will be too costly to meet the standards.”

The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk. For example, Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, Ohio, had built its packing area prior to FSMA. The open sides of the packing area — where produce is made ready for restaurants or to take to the farmers’ market — posed a contamination risk. The farm addressed the situation by enclosing the area with half-inch hardware cloth sides and doors.

“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said Eric Pawlowski, OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator. “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”

The new report, along with additional resources, are available at OEFFA’s food safety web page.