County Farms Receive State Grants for Food Safety

The Recorder, December 22, 2016, by Richie Davis

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has awarded $200,000 in grants to 24 farms, including three in Franklin County, to install equipment that can improve food safety.

The competitive grant program allows farms to address food safety upgrades, enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food and protect public health by reducing food safety risks.

The Kitchen Garden in Sunderland will receive $12,684 for a “rinse conveyor” and bagging table that co-owner Carolyn Pam says will help the farm meet federal Good Agricultural Practices audits needed for The Kitchen Garden to sell to supermarkets.

The plastic reusable shipping crates that the farm has been shifting to now has a “very time consuming sterilization process” that can be avoided by the rinse conveyor.

Apart from using high-pressure sprayers from above and below for a one-pass washing and sterilization system that uses a chlorine bleach solution, the equipment can also be used to cool packed vegetables of “field heat” before they’re put in storage, to increase food safety, Pam said.

The bagging equipment has a stainless steel washable surface with two funnels that can be used to bag washed and dried roots.

Maple Row Farm of Ashfield, a 300-acre organic potato, squash and corn wholesale farm won $15,000 for “microbins,” while Montague’s Red Fire Farm was awarded $9,750 for hand-washing sinks, metal tables, deer fencing, and repurposing a marine shipping container for storage to remove field heat from crops.

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire said, “This will enhance what we already have,” including some stainless steel tables, hand-washing sinks and 6-foot deer fencing, which can be moved to protect “susceptible” crops from animal waste.

Red Fire is already Good Agriculture Practices certified, he said, but this will help in meeting new regulations under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act,

By implementing eligible upgrades the farms will be able to protect public health, sustain public confidence in the food system, meet buyer requirements, and follow FSMA regulations.

“Assisting farmers through both grants and technical assistance will help modernize their operations and continue to strengthen our local food supply and the agricultural industry,” said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. “We are committed to the goal of ensuring food safety from farm to table.”

You can reach Richie Davis at
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

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