UVM Extension Ag Engineering


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

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.
Continue reading “Improving Handwashing Stations”

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.

Continue reading “Spray Tables for Produce Farms”

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.

Continue reading “Drains for Produce Farms”

Risks Posed by Cats on Produce Farms

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

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.

Continue reading “Risks Posed by Cats on Produce Farms”

Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus & COVID-19

Updated 3/18/2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a common concern and many are wondering what they can and should do. The information here is intended to help guide the fruit and vegetable farming community. If you have concerns or additional suggestions please contact the UVM Extension Produce Safety Team (producesafety@uvm.edu / (802) 257-7967) or the VT Agency of Agriculture’s Produce Program for additional guidance (agr.fsma@vermont.gov / (802) 828-2433).

Download as a PDF.

Listen on the The Ag Engineering Podcast.

Please also see the compiled resources at the UVM Extension VT Vegetable and Berry Growers Page.

Continue reading “Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus & COVID-19”

Planning an Efficient and Safe Wash/Pack Area

By Chris Callahan, Hans Estrin, and Andy Chamberlin


Efficiency and food safety are integral parts of running a profitable and viable farm, producing high-quality produce, and retaining valuable employees. This integration should start with a vision in the planning stage of all postharvest projects. 

Continue reading “Planning an Efficient and Safe Wash/Pack Area”

Across The Fence: Mean Green(s) Washing Machine (TV Segment on Greens Spinners)

UVM Extension’s own television program Across The Fence did a segment on a project we’ve been working on related to greens spinners. You can watch the video clip here explaining why small farms are making use of washing machines as greens spinners and what we are doing to help make them more feasible.

Continue reading “Across The Fence: Mean Green(s) Washing Machine (TV Segment on Greens Spinners)”

Washing Machine Greens Spinners: Shopping Advice

This blog post is for those using or considering a converted washing machine as greens spinner. 


For background information on several different types of greens spinners and general thoughts on using washing machine conversions see this blog post

Shopping Tips

What to look for when shopping for a washing machine for a greens spinner? The details are in the drum. Minimize seams, nooks and crannies for an easy to clean surface.

There are a few things to consider when shopping for a washing machine to convert into a greens spinner. Like most things, it comes down to:

  1. How much you want to spend, and
  2. What features are important to you. Continue reading “Washing Machine Greens Spinners: Shopping Advice”
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