By Billy Mitchell, NFU Food Safety Training Coordinator

On a recent episode of the Tilth Alliance Farm Walks Podcast, Ryan Lichttenegger of Steel Wheel Farm in Fall City, Washington, and Andy Chamberlin, Agricultural Engineering Technician at the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, dove into some of the ins and outs of DIY hygienic design. Lichttenegger recently made some updates to Steel Wheel Farrm’s wash/pack area to help strengthen their food safety practices, while Chamberlin brings years of experience helping growers sort out the best ways to design their farms to help lower risks and increase effectiveness.

One tool that Lichttenegger uses to make sure Steel Wheel Farm is following good food safety practices is the Washington States Department of Agriculture’s Bridging the GAPS farm guide. The information provided isdesigned to support growers in their efforts to meet food safety standards and has guided the decisions that Steel Wheel Farm has made as they’ve upgraded over the years. One change they’ve made is to replace tubs that were previously on wooden legs to tanks on steel stands, not only making cleaning and sanitizing easier, but also improving the efficiency of their wash/pack area. They’ve also recently installed drains which can help speed the cleaning process at the end of the day and create a more comfortable working environment.

Chamberlin is often in conversation with small scale fruit and vegetable farmers to discuss tools, tips, or techniques to improve the sustainability of their farms as part of his work with farmers in Vermont and as host of the Ag Engineering podcast. Many farmers end up taking steps very similar to the ones that Lichttenegger took. Chamberlin encourages growers to implement hygienic and sanitary design in their operations, practices like having smooth and cleanable surfaces and preventing contamination. A good place for growers to start is to consider their selection of bins, buckets, and totes — from ergonomics to productivity to produce safety, how will these choices affect their farm?

Tilth Alliance’s new Farm Walks podcast series has proven to be popular for the same reasons growers often turn to resources from UVM — they supply practical information in an easy-to-understand way and foster farmer-to-farmer educational opportunities. Whether it’s hearing about a fellow farmer’s experience on a podcast or seeing their operation through a case study, peer-to-peer learning is always invaluable. To keep your ears buzzing with food safety and small farm information, make sure to sign up for updates from Farm Walks and The Ag Engineering Podcast.

For more food safety resources, please visit the Local Food Safety Collaborative website along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.

This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government

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