Farm Focus: Food Safety at Frog Hollow Farm
You might have noticed we haven't heard much lately from Rachel, Farm Assistant extraordinaire. That's because she has been knee deep in preparing for a major farm audit. We recently caught up with her to find out the why and how of food safety on Frog Hollow Farm.
Since the early 2000s, there has been a lot of focus on Food Safety policy because of dangerous and expensive food recalls from pathogens like E-coli and salmonella. This focus resulted in the Food Safety Modernization Act which was passed in 2011. Although most of the food safety problems have been from large conventional monoculture farms, many produce wholesalers are asking farms like us to have Food Safety Audits by a third party so this year we've made the leap.
We decided to work with CCOOF, the body that certifies our Organic practices since they are already familiar with our farm and operation and now offer Food Safety certification audits. There are many types of certifications available but the best fit for our size farm and practices is the Global Good Agricultural Practices. Harmonized Produce Safety Certification aka Global GAP HPSf.
In February Rachel met with a consultant who went through the farm to check out our operations and advise on writing policies, procedures, and logs to document everything we do all the way from the orchard to the packing shed. The good news is that most of the practices we've been using for years are already in compliance but Rachel needed to write a Food Safety Plan including policies, procedures along with logs to track compliance for Global GAP HPSF.
Since then Rachel and all of our staff have been working diligently to get everything ready. Equipment has been moved, signs have been hung and everything our crews do has been meticulously documented. Every procedure from harvesting to packing now has a written procedure and tracking log. It has been a big undertaking to get ready for the final audit inspection. All of their hard work came together in a TWELVE CHAPTER document spelling it all out in detail.
This last Tuesday was The Big Day. The inspector arrived to review operations, documentation and interview staff about their food safety training. She first visited the field where our harvest crew was picking cherries and she talked to them about things like where they put their hands when climbing up the ladders. (Answer: on the site of the ladder, not on the steps which could contaminate clean hands with dirt from shoes). She then headed back to the office to review the Safety Plan and cross-check the logs and facilities it references.
We're very happy to say that we found ZERO nonconformances. She will now report back to CCOOF where their board will review everything and issue the final certification.
Thank you to Rachel, Abel, Francisco, Magana and the entire farm crew for working so hard and passing with flying colors!