I recently visited Chewonki, a school, camp, and farm in Wisscasset, ME that had a recent visit from an ergonomics consultant at their beautiful new pack shed. Some insurance companies offer these visits for free as an injury (and claim) prevention measure.
Several things that struck me:
They were experimenting with different heights for wash bins, harvest crate landing zones, and drying racks using combinations of cinder blocks, stacked pallets and adjustable kitchen racks. They have a constantly changing work crew of different ages and physical abilities. I thought it was a great way of settling into a new workspace and getting a feel for efficiency, flow, and positions of things before committing with permanent fixtures.
bring the work to you, and
prototype your layout before building anything permanent.
The tool shed attached to the wash packed shed was highly organized. Again, with a dynamic, changing crew it is important that tool location be standard and searching be minimized.
a place for everything, and everything in its place.
An important factor in growing and selling high-quality greens is being able to efficiently wash, cool, and dry the product. The drying step is commonly done using centrifugal force in a spinner. The water is spun off of the greens through a filter basket or other porous container. Some growers use mesh bags to contain the greens and improve the efficiency of loading and unloading the spinner.
Some of the key features to consider when thinking about a spinner include cost, capacity, power, space and sanitary design.
There is a broad range of spinners available and they vary considerably in cost. Your budget may dictate which option you choose. But, consider the other features below as well. For example, a less expensive, converted washing machine spinner may actually cost more in cleaning labor when compared to a machine designed to be cleaned.
How big is each batch or how much do you need to dry in a day? Keep in mind that a 5-gallon spinner cannot adequately dry 5 gallons of greens since there needs to be room for the greens to spread out and not create an overly thick mat that water can’t get through. A rough rule of thumb is 1.1 gal of spinner volume for 1.0 lb of greens. Continue reading Greens Spinners for Farm Use
It is easy to ignore the thing beneath our feet, but floors are an important part of produce wash and pack areas that deserve special attention. They can impact efficiency, ergonomics, employee health, worker fatigue, personnel safety, and produce safety. There are also a number of design features involved with these seemingly simple structures that should be considered1,2.
No two wash-pack areas are the same. Every farm has different needs driven by different crops, scales of production, layout, existing infrastructure, and management approaches.
Smaller market farms may have a very simple, open packshed design consisting of “four sticks and a lid” used primarily during the summer months. The floor of these structures could be anything: a dirt floor, grass, or gravel surface. If you choose to have a dirt floor, consider laying down weed mat or landscape fabric to create a tidy work environment. It is helpful to consider drainage, specifically providing intentional drains from wash tanks and sinks that direct outflow away from the work area, production areas and bodies of water. The intent is to keep the surface underfoot relatively dry and free of standing water, prevent cross-contamination between drainage water and production areas and to prevent nutrient loading in bodies of water.
Larger farms and those engaged in season extension and winter markets may find benefit from an improved floor, permanent roof and walls. When scaling up, consider the benefits of an enclosed packshed which can provide:
Protection from the elements as you work further into the shoulder seasons. Cooler working environment in the summer for you, your crew, the produce, and your equipment or warmer (if heated) in the fall, winter, and spring.
Cleaner environment for handling produce and storing containers. An enclosed space is more “cleanable” as it has doors and windows to keep dust, bugs, birds and other wildlife away from you and your produce.
This presentation discusses several different options for record keeping and tracking of produce safety documents and farm logs on an online interface. This was recorded at the Great Lakes Expo in Grand Rapids Michigan December 2017 and given by Chris Callahan UVM Extension, Ag Engineering.
This presentation was given by Chris Callahan from at the Great Lakes Expo in Grand Rapids Michigan in December 2017. He discusses the differences between fruit and vegetable storage needs, finish surfaces for wash/pack areas or coolers as well as temperature and humidity controls.
A frequently asked question we get is about vapor barrier usage in coolers. See Chris’ answer below addressing that question. This video shot is pulled from the above presentation and was shared on our Instagram page.
This conference is filled with a variety of vendors at the trade show, presentations covering specific details of individual crops and varieties, and even talks on designing your farm with an eye on food safety. Another interesting activity that went on was the farmer to farmer sessions that are not presentations but a lead conversation to discuss what works and what doesn’t on your farm. A lot of tips, tricks, and common complaints are all brought up and shared during this literally circled up conversation.
If you’ve never been here are a few photos from the event, which was very snowy in mid-December.
Here is a short highlight video from the conference!
Picadilly Farm is owned and operated by Jenny and Bruce Wooster since 2006. Their farm is located in the South East Corner of New Hampshire in Winchester and has about 30 acres in production. They provide fresh produce to over 1,000 families through CSA shares spread across New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
Bruce reached out to share that he has an AZS Rinse conveyor and offered up his thoughts on the equipment as well.