UVM Extension Ag Engineering

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Project Planning for Postharvest Efficiency, Profitability & Food Safety (Free 8-Part Packshed Webinar)

The UVM Extension Produce Safety Team has developed a video series focused on postharvest upgrades for your farm. Whether your project is organizing a relatively simple outside wash station or building a full packshed from scratch, we share the principles and practice with examples to help you make the most of it.

An outline of this training is available in written form in the blog post Planning an Efficient and Safe Wash/Pack Area.

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The Ag Engineering Podcast

Where we talk tools, tips and techniques to improve the sustainability of your farm

Andy was awarded a 2019 Northeast SARE Grant to produce The Ag Engineering Podcast. In this podcast, we share tools, tips and techniques to improve sustainability on your farm. It was launched in December 2019. This podcast features short-format, easy to digest, topic-centered episodes that dive right into the details. This project is supported by an advisory team of farmers who help guide the overall development of the podcast.

What do we talk about?

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Safe and Efficient Drying and Curing of CBD Hemp

UVM Extension Agricultural Engineering, Resource Innovation Institute, Efficiency Vermont, and VT Division of Fire Safety recently teamed up to provide a webinar as part of the UVM Extension NW Crops and Soils Team Hemp and UVM Extension New Farmer Project series. This session focused on safely and efficiently drying and curing hemp to support customer quality needs. Continue reading “Safe and Efficient Drying and Curing of CBD Hemp”

A Visit to Market Farm Implement

While in Pennsylvania for a conference, I made a side trip to Market Farm Implement in the south western part of the state. They are a popular manufacturer, importer and dealer for small scale vegetable crop machinery. Market Farm Implement have ads in publications like Vegetable Growers but their online presence is limited which poses challenges in discovering their company in today’s digital age. This motivated the visit to see behind the curtain and check out what they have going on at their facility. I met with Dave Moore and he showed me around their 3 buildings full of small scale equipment ranging from soil prep, cultivation, planting, harvesting, sorting and more. Here is a playlist of videos about various equipment we talked about and photos shown below to give you a look inside for yourself.

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Washing Machine Greens Spinners: Cleaning Tips

Washing machine greens spinners are often used for drying greens on small farms. They do require attention to cleaning and maintenance in order to keep them in sanitary working condition. This blog post highlights some tips to cleaning your greens spinner and provides links to six videos that focus on how to best clean these machines. You can watch the whole playlist below.

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Across The Fence TV Segment on DIY Handwashing Stations

Across The Fence recently featured one of the latest projects we’ve been working on: “Improving Handwashing Stations“. This project focuses on a hands-free, mobile handwashing station for use on farms, at farmers’ markets, or in other public spaces.

This work was also highlighted in the Bennington Banner on June 9, 2020.

Improving Handwashing Stations

File:PDF file icon.svg - Wikimedia Commons

A downloadable PDF of this blog post and assembly guide is available here.

Handwashing has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of transmission of human pathogens between people. But, sometimes we are inconveniently far from the closest wash room and sink. Hand washing stations provide a portable means of washing hands on farms, at farmers’ markets, and at recreational sites. This guide was motivated by a desire to improve current handwashing station practice with a focus on minimizing or even removing all contact between the user’s hands and surfaces of the station.

The key design features of a handwashing station include

  • Clean supply water that is safe and of adequate sanitary quality.
  • Hands free operation of water which allows thorough washing of hands with full attention and also prevents cross contamination via faucet handle and other surfaces.
  • Gray water collection for controlled disposal to prevent direct discharge of used water on the ground in order to minimize cross contamination and pollution.
  • Hands free dispensing of soap to avoid cross contamination.
  • Touchless or low contact paper towel dispenser to prevent cross contamination.
  • Paper towel receptacle with a liner and a closing lid to ensure waste is contained.
  • Sturdy construction leading to durable use over a long lifetime. Consider weather resistant materials or paint to prolong the life of the unit.
  • Stable design that won’t tip over and which keeps parts intact.
  • Portable so that it can be easily moved to where it is needed.
  • Easy to maintain so that it remains useful and pleasant to use.
  • Cleanable so that the handwashing station itself can be kept in hygienic condition. Surfaces should be smooth and cleanable and materials should be compatible with water and soap.
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Spray Tables for Produce Farms

Would you rather listen to this blog post? You can listen and learn about these spray table options via this episode of The Ag Engineering Podcast.

Spray tables are commonly used to rinse bunched produce or crops with relatively high soil load. They are typically made from a porous horizontal material supported by a framed structure. A very common approach is to use 2×4 lumber for framing and either hardware cloth or welded wire fencing stapled to the top. Although this approach is inexpensive and uses readily available materials this design has two main downsides:

  1. Wood and galvanized metal are not very easy to clean completely.
  2. Wood and galvanized metal will wear over time with repeated soaking and drying cycles.

If we apply the principles of hygienic design to a spray table it becomes clear that we should think about the cleanability of the materials and their assembly while also thinking about how the materials will hold up over time.

Below are some options for spray table materials and approaches that should help make yours easier to clean and more durable. These options are sorted by lowest per square foot cost to highest. Support structure and legs were not accounted for in the cost.

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Drains for Produce Farms

This guide provides background on planning for drains and drainage from produce wash and pack areas. Direct drains, floor and spot drains, and trench and gutter drains are discussed. A construction drawing for a trench drain is also provided.

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Risks Posed by Cats on Produce Farms

Authored by Phil Tocco, Michigan State University & Chris Callahan, University of Vermont

File:PDF file icon.svg - Wikimedia Commons

View or download a PDF of this factsheet here.

Many small farmers rely on cats to control rodents on farms. These “working animals” seem like a good way to limit crop loss and reduce other produce safety risks from rodents. Unfortunately, cats bring risks of their own. Cats are the only full-cycle host of a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or ‘toxo’).

The FSMA Produce Safety Rule generally requires “measures reasonably necessary to prevent the introduction of known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into covered produce” (112.11). The rule specifically requires an assessment of areas where covered activities take place for evidence of potential contamination, and evaluate whether covered produce can be harvested if there is a reasonable probability of contamination (112.83). This includes the observation of an animal in a production or handling area such as a greenhouse or packing shed.

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