In response to new food safety regulations, the Conservation District is working with the state of Michigan to provide assistance to produce growers. This voluntary program will give local growers the opportunity to have their questions answered and learn the best methods to protect both their families and their customers. The program is set up to have a local and available technician assist with the implementation of safe food growing and harvesting practices on produce farms across multiple counties in Michigan. This includes outreach, education, on-farm technical assistance and coordination with local, state and federal agency resources to help produce growers reduce food safety risks and make progress towards implementation of practices consistent with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
Due to constraints associated with Covid-19, the Produce Safety team developed alternative methods to serve produce growers of Michigan. Many of these methods use a virtual platform as an alternative to face-to-face interactions. The Michigan On-Farm Produce Safety Team has worked to continue developing and administering Produce Safety Alliance Online Grower Trainings throughout the year. This virtual platform has allowed for the continuation of on-farm produce safety training, the first step in developing proper produce safety programs. The Produce Safety Technician website (www.miofps.org) continues to be a useful tool, serving as a database of resources for Michigan Growers and providing a direct link to the Produce Safety Technicians.
It is essential to be able to identify risks on the farm; especially when growing fresh fruit and vegetables. The Berrien Conservation District has added two new programs, the Produce Safety Risk Assessment and On-farm Readiness Review, to help farmers in Berrien, Van Buren, Kalamazoo and Allegan counties assess their risks when growing, handling, harvesting, storing, and transporting their fresh produce.
The Produce Safety Risk Assessment (PSRA) is completed by a Produce Safety Technician and the Farm Operator and is completely confidential, voluntary, and free. All information will stay on the farm and is to be used for educational purposes for the operation. A PSRA can be requested by any grower; regardless of acres, produce output, income, and method of distribution. On average, they can help gauge the level of produce safety risks on the farm within a couple of hours. The off-season is a great time to take advantage of a risk assessment. An assessment can be requested by contacting the Berrien Conservation District or by emailing the Produce Safety Technician.
An On-farm Readiness Review (OFRR) is a confidential, free, and voluntary program that helps to assess the grower's readiness for a state inspection. If you are a farm that has a gross annual income over $27,000 on a three-year average of fresh produce sales - you may have to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Technician will have updated information regarding mandatory grower trainings and can help conduct an OFRR. An OFRR is something the farm can initiate with the Produce Safety Technician or by request by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For best results, the OFRR's should take place during harvest of at least one type of produce being grown on the farm. This will ensure an adequate measure is taken on the farm's readiness.
Conservation Practices and Produce Safety are complementary to each other; that is why Conservation Districts provide these services.
Please contact the Berrien Conservation District or the Produce Safety Technician directly if you wish to know more about this program or to request an assessment.
Berrien Conservation District
Patrick Gordon, Produce Safety Technician
3334 Edgewood Road
Berrien Springs, MI 49103
(269) 471-9111 x 3
09:00 am - 04:00 pm
Because we are a field office, please call BEFORE you visit so that someone can assist you.
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