Our operation is small and we have never had an instance or a concern about food safety. Being germ-phobic has not hurt us either. However, we recently received our GAP certification. GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices. It is all about food safety and cross contamination. Being certified organic I shunned being certified GAP I felt we already exceeded the regulations. I ask people when was the last time you heard of a small farm or local butcher having to recall their products.
Having taken the course I now see the value the information has to all farms, not just small but especially large. I was in the process of writing our GAP plan. One of the documents in the plan is a Hazard Mitigation matrix. The matrix contained all potential hazards, how to identify them, and the mitigation of the hazard once discovered. I am a contingency planner, so I listed all the possible hazards we face from growing, harvesting, shipping and delivery. I was running out of ideas so I put "A human defecates in the field,” Then I addressed the mitigation and actions to be taken if there was an occurrence.
Having exhausted every hazard, I could think of, I felt proud and wanted my wife to review my marvelous work. Upon reading the human defecation hazard, I was chided and I think the comment was "Oh come one, it’s a little overboard, don't ya think?” I admitted it might be but in the realm of possibility, it was possible. No matter it was taken out.
Not long after we got our GAP packet from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, there were forms and signs inside and low and behold one sign shows a person squatting in a field, pants around their knees and the international NO sign covers him. It still brings a smile and little chuckle when I think about it, however, it is real and it is a problem. We are too small but I can imagine on larger operations it happens.
There are regulations about how far away a bathroom is from the fieldwork, what a proper hand-washing station is and how long you need to wash your hands and safely disinfect them. There are regulations about hand washing and packaging area's, break rooms, refrigerator temperatures, co-mingling and many others. Five logs require data on a daily basis, from cleaning bathrooms to cleaning the delivery truck all in an effort to make the food supply safe. I cannot find fault with that, no one should die from ingesting spinach, tomatoes or cantaloupes. I am glad we took that extra step to get GAP certified. .
Each season brings a Farm Safety talk and walk through of the medical kits and fire extinguishers. Last year one of the folks pointed out that one of our medical kits was Tim Allen’s’ “Tool Time Safety Kit”. The TV show Tool Time started in 1991. Given that some of the folks we had working for us were not even born at the time, it was decided we needed to purchase a new medical kit. Who knew medical kits expire. Farm safety is the number one priority on our farm and everyone is trained on how to properly and safely operate tools, vehicles and equipment. You must pass my test before you get to use a potentially dangerous object.
We have an extensive medical supply kit in the house. Given my propensity to cut, scrape, bang, twist, burn, jab, stick, and generally wound myself while working that we have accumulated enough medical supplies to handle most types of small injuries.
Now along with farm safety reviews, we have incorporated GAP training with the same emphasis.
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