Food safety

We help growers provide healthy and safe produce to their markets through workshops, webinars, online resources and more.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident.

We assist growers in adopting a culture of food safety on their farms. CAFF provides comprehensive food safety technical assistance across California to help farmers understand good agricultural practices (GAPs), develop food safety/GAPs plans specific to their operation, learn about new requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and prepare for 3rd party food safety audits (if desired). Since 2007, CAFF’s Food Safety Program has reached nearly 3,000 growers through 120 workshops and one-on-one support. We have helped over 250 farms develop farm food safety plans, including beginning, socially-disadvantaged, minority, and small-to-medium- sized farms.



We offer educational events and trainings across California to help farmers understand and better prepare for new on-farm food safety regulations. Check our Events Page for upcoming workshops near you.


After farmers have worked with us to improve their food safety program, we visit farms to provide additional in-person support. Priority given to our member farms.


Templates including recording keeping logs, farm risk assessments, fact sheets, harvest checklists and other documents to use on your farm business.


We offer online webinars and trainings that you can join from your home computer to help you better understand and comply with new on-farm food safety regulations.


Fact sheets to tips on value-added products, find a variety of resources to help keep your produce safe and your farm in compliance with food safety regs.


In the Farmers Beet Podcast, hear directly from small family farmers about the techniques and innovations used to keep their food safe to eat, practical tips shared by farmers for farmers.

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (US FSIS) food safety is defined as “A suitable product which when consumed orally either by a human or an animal does not cause health risk to consumers.”

There are three types of health risks that can be caused by food:

1. Chemical – improperly stored, handled or used chemicals can be a source of contamination. Examples of chemicals used on farm include fertilizers, synthetic and non-synthetic pesticides, cleaning agents, fuel, etc.

2. Physical – anything that is not meant to be in the produce. Examples include screws, glass, staples, wood, insects, etc.

3. Biological (Microbial) – could be viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi, that cause illnesses and sometimes even death. (Bacteria that are disease causing are referred to as pathogens. Illnesses caused by eating contaminated foods are referred to a foodborne illnesses or food poisoning). It is important to consider and understand all three sources of potential contamination, but biological contamination is the biggest concern. This is in part because the human sensory system cannot see, taste, smell or feel pathogens or viruses, whereas we can often detect chemical contamination through smell or taste and physical contamination through touch or feel.

Food safety risks may be reduced on the farm by following good agricultural practices (GAPs). GAPs help growers understand the practices and risks associated with their farm, and help identify practical ways to reduce the risk of contaminating produce being grown, harvested and packed on the farm. Implementing GAPs on the farm help decrease the likelihood of a food safety outbreak.

There is no such thing as “zero-risk,” but practices and steps need to be in place on farms to minimize any potential risk of contamination. Although the common principles of GAPs don’t change from farm to farm, each GAP is unique, as every grower does things differently.

GAPs focus on assessing the risk in the following five key areas:

1. Water
2. Manure/Compost & Soil Amendments
3. Land Use (Previous/Adjacent) & Animal Access (Domestic/Wildlife)
4. Equipment, Tools & Buildings
5. Employee Health & Hygiene

Assessing the risks and implementing steps to reduce the chance of contamination in each of the above five areas and ensuring proper traceability is what makes GAPs successful on farm.

In 2011 Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It was the first time we have had a major food safety overall across all sections of the food system for 70 years. Now, with FSMA in place, it is the first time that the federal government is regulating on-farm food safety at produce farms. You can learn more and access loads of resources on FSMA in the Farmer Services Food Safety Resources page.

 Buyers sometimes ask farmers to get a 3rd party food safety audit for their produce. This is related, but different than FSMA.  You can request an audit from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Food Safety Audit Program or from a variety of private companies that offer audits (e.g. Primus, GlobalG.A.P., etc).

There are a number of third party auditing firms, each with a slightly different program. Cost may vary slightly or significantly depending on your location and the company you decide to use. (Note: Always ensure your buyer is not mandating a certain company or program for verification). The following are links to some of the auditing companies and/or their specific programs:

USDA Harmonized GAP and GAP+ Audits

Primus Pre-Harvest, Ranch, Greenhouse, and other audits

GlobalG.A.P. local GAP Audit



It is entirely possible and legal to maintain conservation and organic principles on a farm while also being in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). You can learn more and access loads of resources on FSMA in the Farmer Services Food Safety Resources page.

 Many farmers expand beyond just selling raw agricultural products. When you process a raw agricultural product from wheat berries into flour or raw tomatoes into canned tomato sauce you are making a value-added product. There are a variety of California state level regulations and federal food safety regulations for these products. You can learn more and access loads of resources on FSMA in the Farmer Services Food Safety Resources page.


Full Belly Farm Podcast Episode

SHOW NOTES: Full Belly Farm website: Full Belly Farm instagram: @full_belly_farm FDA FSMA pdf of law: Hotsy Hot Water Pressure Washer: See page 133 of

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Kali Feiereisel
Farmer Services Director

Kali provides food safety technical assistance to farmers as they further develop their practices to meet new requirements. She provides food safety TA to growers across the state.

kali[at] | 530.290.1144

Grace Perry
Farmer Services Coordinator

Grace supports farmers as they adopt and adapt their food safety practices through one-on-one support and workshops. She is based in Sonora and provides food safety TA to growers across the state.


Michelle Wyler
Managing Director, Farm to Market

Michelle steers the development and implementation of farm direct programs at CAFF which support direct market farms. She provides food safety TA to farmers on the north coast region (Arcata and beyond).