Valley Farms Get State Money to Improve Food Safety Measures

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, December 28th, 2015, by David Eisenstadter.

The farms — Jekanowski Farms and Astarte Farms in Hadley and Old Friends Farm andSimple Gifts Farm in Amherst — received grants totalling $43,000 to address food safety upgrades, according to a statement from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s office. “These grants ensure that our local farmers have the tools and state financial support to continue to produce fresh local food for our residents,” Rosenberg said. “In addition, the improvements to each of these facilities will improve food safety and help farmers meet the demands of the marketplace.”

The law is the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, according to Rosenberg.

James Mead, an owner of Astarte Farm, said his farm will use the money to improve a portion of a barn where vegetables are washed. The $15,000 Astarte Farm received will go toward creating an enclosed room in one of the barns and a special washing station, he said.

“There are regulations coming down requiring more care in handling food when washing and packing,” Mead said. “(The Department of Agriculture) has this program to help farmers like me to afford to comply with these regulations.”

The new washing station will allow Mead and others who work on the farm to more conveniently wash their hands and will make handling vegetables more organized and cleaner, he said.

Jeremy Barker Plotkin, a co-owner of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, said his farm would also use its $10,000 grant to upgrade a vegetable wash station.

That amount, in addition to a $50,000 state farm improvement program grant awarded earlier this year, will go toward building an easily washable room to clean vegetables, he said.

“It is insulated so we can wash vegetables year round in it,” he said.

After vegetables are washed in the room, the room itself can be washed to prevent harmful pathogens from entering the food, he said.

“We’re real grateful for all the support we get from the state,” Barker Plotkin said. “It is a difficult economic environment to be in to be running a farm and every bit of support we can get is fantastic.”

Projects at other farms include cold storage and harvest bins, stainless steel tables and a greens dryer, and new packing/washing room upgrades, according to Rosenberg.