Project objectives from proposal:
The solutions: We educate farms about the advantages of good washing and packing set-ups, and how to build better wash stations, we devise simple wash/pack station plans (a publication), we assist farmers in developing food safety plans, we offer GAPs training, and we assist farms with GAPs certification.
• We will study harvest and packing practices and infrastructure at regional produce farms to create benchmarks and examples, using a case study approach on approximately 10 farms. We will identify “good” and “bad” practices, and areas where efficiency could be improved. For the assessment, we’ll use the basic GAPs criteria—worker hygiene, water quality, harvest sanitation, postharvest handling, and scouting for sources of contamination.
• We will help the participating case study farms implement improvements by providing a “shopping list” and assistance with design and installation. We will measure labor efficiency improvements after the new set-ups are in place.
• We will provide training and field days for other area farmers. At the training we’ll use a panel of participating farmers, photos, and labor data to demonstrate what they’ve done on their own farms. We will demonstrate the advantages of implementing an efficient post-harvest wash and pack station including increases in both food safety and labor efficiency. We will also discuss the advantages of food safety and a written food safety plan as a marketing advantage with direct market customers. In addition, we will organize 1 or 2 field days for farmers to visit 3-4 other farms and learn about their systems. Included in the field days will be a mock GAPs inspection to demonstrate what farms can expect.
• We will create and distribute a publication showing efficient and food-safe harvest and packing set-ups that work for small scale produce farmers. Existing publications such as “Packing Shed Layout 1” and “Packing Shed Layout 2” from University of Wisconsin do not comprehensively address the factors of work efficiency, station layout, good procedure, and food safety. (These publication can be found at http://agmarketing.extension.psu.edu/Wholesale/PDFs/PackingTip.pdf and http://bse.wisc.edu/hfhp/tipsheets_pdf/shed4web.pdf ) Our publication will give multiple specific examples of good set-ups both for crops that need washing and for those that just need packing.
• We will assist interested farmers in their pursuit of GAPs certification by investigating the resources they need and itemizing materials and actions needed.
The Southern Tier will be a safer place to eat locally when we’re through!