Meet CAFF’s 2020-22 Partner Farm Cohort, Part 2

From 2020-2022 CAFF partnered with fifteen farms across California to develop and update their food safety practices. Farms who participated in the partnership wanted to ensure their food was safe for their communities, comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule and be able to respond to buyer questions about food safety practices. Learn more about the changes made on our Partner Farms and food safety advice from the farms below.

Get to know more about our Partner Farm Program and meet 4 of our Partner Farms in Part 1 here

What is the Partner Farm Program process?

CAFF food safety staff met with Partner Farms to learn more about the farmers’ food safety goals. After goal setting, CAFF and the farmers worked together to develop a food safety action plan, which organized their goal(s) into small steps and helped the farmer achieve their end food safety goal(s). Some farmers were already familiar with good agricultural practices and needed to keep track of their practices through recordkeeping. Others needed more guidance to implement and document good agricultural practices. Below are some thoughts the farmers shared on changes they made to their food safety plans and practices.

Water
  • Increased understanding of the food safety risks associated with water sources and applications: municipal, well and surface
  • Farms who were not already testing their water began testing production and postharvest water
  • Created farm maps that included water flow and irrigation infrastructure
Worker Health & Hygiene
  • Created an employee training process and started keeping records of each employee training, topics covered, and who was in attendance
  • Increased understanding of the importance of proper handwashing and accessibility to handwashing stations for employee training
  • Added portable or permanent hand washing stations to high-traffic areas
  • Farms with many volunteers and employees created employee training and handwashing videos
  • Purchased first aid supplies for the farm
Equipment, Tools and Buildings
  • Created a cleaning and sanitizing schedule for frequently used tools and equipment
  • Created SOPs for cleaning and sanitizing tools
  • Posted cleaning and sanitizing schedules and SOPs in the pack/wash station
  • Selected and purchased sanitizers approved for use on food-contact surfaces
  • Elevated harvest and packing supplies off of the floor using pallets
  • Created storage for tools and equipment
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Animals
  • Increased understanding of the food safety risks associated with animal activity on the farm: domestic, wild and livestock
  • Created policies for animal intrusion and incorporated them into employee trainings
  • Created policies for livestock rotation in crop-growing areas, following the NOPs 90 to 120-day rule, and logs for tracking rotations
  • Designated specific clothing and boots for use around livestock
Harvest and Postharvest
  • Increased understanding of the food safety risks associated with washing produce after harvest
  • Created and implemented a pre-harvest field assessment
  • Trained employees to not harvesting any crop with animal feces on it 
  • Created SOPs for post-harvest processing, including how to use sanitizers in post-harvest wash water
  • Created a cooler cleaning schedule and log
  • Elevated produce off of the cooler floor using pallets
  • Replaced porous food-contact surfaces with non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel
  • Created and implemented traceability systems using recordkeeping and labels

Farmer-to-Farmer Advice

All of the farmers interviewed for this program agreed that they feel more confident in approaching buyers and customers and explaining their farm’s food safety practices. They also agreed that the Partner Farm program helped improve and organize their farm’s food safety practices. When asked about the easiest food safety practice they would recommend to a farmer just beginning a food safety program, the farmers’ answers differed:

  • Setting up a hand washing station and restroom facilities for employees and training them about proper health and hygiene practices
  • Organizing the recordkeeping logs that apply to your farm
  • Write down what you do, it makes everything easier. You need to have a way to prove anything that happens like on X day I washed the boxes or the tools or the implements. I think that is the easiest and the hardest, because if you have this everything is easy. And if you don’t then it is really hard.
Scroll to see more photos from our Partner Farms

Additional Food Safety Resoures

*New* Partner Farm Cohort​

Are you interesting in joining the next round of our Partner Farm Program starting in late 2022-early 2023? Let us know by emailing Grace Perry at grace@caff.org.

Funding for this project comes from the California Specialty Crop Small and Medium Scale Farm Food Safety Technical Assistance Program, made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM190100XXXXG008. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.