|Moises cleaning a wash tank in|
preparation for sanitizing harvest totes
|Cleaning the salad cutter before it goes to the field to harvest|
|Red bucket labeled for cleaning only|
So what are some of those practices we employ? Well, for starters, we clean…A Lot! We don’t just wash vegetables, we also clean equipment, trucks, facilities, harvest containers and more. Part of our annual training is reviewing the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, as they are two different steps and need to be done in the correct order to be effective! We clean a surface using soap to remove dirt and debris, then follow that with a fresh water rinse. Once the surface is clean, we come back and spray on a sanitizer solution to take care of any microscopic pathogen. This concept is applied in many scenarios throughout the farm. Whether we’re setting up an area in the packing shed to wash and pack vegetables or we are preparing to use a harvest belt to pick zucchini and cucumbers, we always clean and sanitize! We have even devised a system and set of tools so we can take the appropriate brushes, sanitizing agent, buckets of soapy water and clean water to the field --everything the crew needs to properly clean and sanitize the belt in the field prior to every use.
|Color-coded brushes and bilingual signs in our|
|Cheery yellow cleaning supplies,|
for bathroom use only!
|Freshly cleaned and sanitized barrel washer|
set up. We're ready to wash vegetables!
Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites are not the only things that may potentially contaminate food. We’re also careful to make sure we’re removing excess grease from bearings on equipment and check all connections for implements, hydraulic hoses, etc. to make sure we catch and repair any leaks. We’ve even implemented a system for outfitting our tractors that are used by harvest crews with “tractor diapers!” To my knowledge this is not an industry standard, but it’s a practice Richard devised and it’s become standard protocol on our farm. We secure a heavy duty tarp under the belly of a tractor and place absorbent pads in the tarp. If there should be any kind of a fluid or oil leak, we can easily see it, catch it and repair it thereby removing the potential for product to be contaminated in production areas or around a field! Of course, tractor diapers don’t replace the need for observation, so all crew members are trained to be very attentive at all times, whether they are operating a piece of machinery or just working in the area. If they see anything that doesn’t look right, it’s their responsibility to speak up and say “Wait, we need to check this out!” Ok, so what do we do if there is a problem? First, STOP! Notify those in the area that there may be a problem and contact a supervisor/owner. Fully assess the situation and then devise a plan to prevent any further issues and clean up anything that needs to be cleaned, etc. One important point here is that we are a team. We all may see things differently and we all may play a slightly different role in resolving the situation and being part of the solution. Remember, food safety is everyone’s responsibility!
|Ascencion harvesting black radishes, note his |
yellow handled harvest knife!
|Crew training session with Richard, Andrea and our Spanish|
interpreter, Michelle. Andrea is modeling the proper
attire to wear when working in animal areas--the only
place on the farm where you'll find bright yellow boots!
Whew---this is a lot of information, and we’ve only just touched the surface of the practices we employ on our farm. We haven’t even discussed clutter control, first-in/first-out procedures, wearing yellow boots when working in animal areas, or what to do if it rains so much and river water washes through crop land! Food safety is a part of our lives every single day and we hope you can see how integral it is to our farm and how we operate. Of course we like having a neat, clean and organized farm. It makes our work spaces more pleasant to work in and allows us to work more efficiently. We do a lot of record keeping related to food safety as well, but that’s ok because it also helps us be better managers of our time and resources. Is it worth it to invest this much thought, time and energy into a food safety program? Absolutely! Regardless of the law or requirements imposed on us by our buyers, we go back to our top priority which is always to ensure you and your family have safe, wholesome food to eat. Thank you for your support of our farm.