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Diagnose and Discuss: Food Safety Clinic Benefits Growers

By Tricia Wancko

If you have a community-based farm and want to identify ways to strengthen your operation, there’s no better place to go for suggestions and solutions than other farmers— alongside some back up from educators who know your area well. Pennsylvania Farmers Union (PAFU) created a virtual space for urban growers to gather, learn, diagnose, and discuss areas for potential improvement on their farms at the Mid-Atlantic Produce Safety Clinic for Growers. The clinic focused on urban and suburban growers in the Mid-Atlantic Region (including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and surrounding areas) and-fostered conversations around operation types, aspirations, and food safety questions and concerns.

Discussions during the clinic were wide-ranging and included creating a basic understanding of produce safety risks and risk reduction, demystifying food safety requirements, and developing and discussing a shared understanding of community needs. It also touched on some food safety classics, like how to write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the how, why, when, and where of water testing. Many of the hosts, including Nykisha Madison-Keita and Gary Bloss, have a background in farming. All the hosts and attendees had a chance to teach and learn from each other, sharing their own experiences with assessing risks and developing systems to run productive farms.

Although many urban and suburban growers may be exempt from some regulations, those who attended the clinic thought it important to integrate food safety into their operations because they care about the health of their communities and strive to supply high-quality (and tasty!) produce for their customers. This value was highlighted in an inspiring video featuring Kimberly Raikes of Whitelock Community Farm and Lindsey Gilmour of Organic Planet LLC. As they walked and talked around the farm, Raikes and Gilmour showcased practical steps Whitelock Community Farm takes to lower their produce safety risks while also creating an engaging and positive environment for their staff and visitors.

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