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 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.
In December, UVM Ag Engineering ventured out to Grand Rapids, MI to attend the Great Lakes Expo.
This exposition was HUGE and full of a variety of seed companies, equipment suppliers, and machinery on display. There was a lot of technology targeted towards fruit growing which is big in that region which was neat to see.
What’s new in Ag tech? Well, one thing that we’ve recently discovered is a rinse conveyor. Specifically designed for the small-scale farm who wants to graduate from hand washing to something a little more automated that can really crank up the pounds of washed vegetables for market.
This machine is made by AZS, an equipment manufacturing company in Ephrata, PA. It is available in full stainless steel, with adjustable water pressure and belt speed, available for under $7,000.
Native Son farm is a small diversified vegetable farm in Tupelo Mississippi, who had been washing vegetables by hand and started looking at automated wash lines. With zero experience on automated washing, he began first researching the common barrel washer, reading reviews, and watching videos online. Will Reed reached out to Deerfield Supply out Kentucky who distributed AZS equipment. Upon meeting Harvey from AZS, he learned about the rinse conveyor, which is less aggressive on the crops than a barrel washer. It is also designed with cleaning in mind which has a high level of food safety appeal.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and UVM Extension are co-sponsoring a VT-Style Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training on Tue-Wed, November 7 & 8, 2017 (8:30am – 5:00pm) at the VYCC Monitor Barn in Richmond, VT. This is the official required training for FSMA covered farms (Click here to determine whether your farm may be covered or exempt).
The $30 heavily subsidized training fee includes the massive training manual, multiple meals, ample coffee, and the Association of Food and Drug Official (AFDO) certificate (a $130 value—not including space rental or instructor fees!). The AFDO training certificate satisfies FSMA Produce Safety Rule training requirement.
EVERYONE is invited: Regardless of scale, annual sales, or market outlets, all produce growers can benefit from learning about integrating practical produce safety practices on a working produce operation. Technical assistance providers, educators, and regulators are also invited and will benefit from this training. Whether you are a covered farm fully subject to Produce Safety Rule (PSR) regulations, or an exempt farm required to keep certain records related to your exemption, all aspects rule compliance will also be covered during this training.
The Training Schedule at a glance:
Day One (November 7, 8:30am–5:00pm) will provide an introduction to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, employee health, hygiene and training requirements, and information about management of soil amendments as well as domesticated animals and wildlife. Includes on-farm exploration to apply concepts in the field.
Day Two (November 8, 8:30am–5:00pm) will cover agricultural water, postharvest handling and sanitation, and writing produce safety plans. Includes on-farm exploration to apply post-harvest concepts.