Its been a very busy off season at the farm. Some of the regulars are trying to fit in vacations before greeenhouse season gets in full swing (we have already started tomatoes and some flowers), Hannah is about to head to Georgia to start the AT, Ray is in the midst of a 6 week bike tour of Patagonia, and Liz is trying to line up a grad school for the fall. CSA membership brochures have gone out and Sarah is working up the greenhouse ads for the next up coming season, Mike is finishing up machine and greenhouse repairs. Anne and I try to get out and do a bit of x country skiing but the paperwork that goes with this deal is, at the least, overwhelming. Its either taxes, chasing inventory, filing H2A paperwork for Roy and Willie…..it really keeps us glued to the office. And we have begun the process of lining up this summers employees and interviews…all very time consuming.
At the grower meetings the two hot topics continue to be food safety and the diseases of vegetable plants, specifically the late blight issue of 2009. We lived through the late blight last summer,but are not sure how we are going to survive all these proposed bureuacratic measures in regards to food safety. There is GAP certification to comply with for those of us that are big enough to wholesale to chains like Hannaford, Price Chopper, etc (and we are not).Then there is Senate Bill 510 in Congress that would get the FDA involved with food safety. There is HAACP, state alth departments…..virtually all in competition to jump into food safety to regulate agriculture.
Once again, small farms ( which are easier to regulate but dont always have the financial resources to come into compliance) are going to pay the price for globalization and a centralized food system. It will be a lot easier to regulate small farms than it will be to make sure the melamine stays out of the baby food coming from China or the e-coli from truck loads of factory farmed food coming from the west coast. We small diversified farms in the northeast dont have the political clout in our legislative bodies to compete with the lobbyists and clout that large agribusiness concerns can wield. I understand that last statement sounds like a bunch of cliched, leftist sound bites. But the fact is large corporate agriculture can absorb the significant costs of compliance as merely a cost of business, where we small farms can not. The regulations will be written “one size fits all” in a rush to address the public concern over “safe food” and it will be hard on small diversified agriculture. We are very, very concerned at this point, but not sure what we can do short of writing letters to our senators and congressmen.
Our farm hasworked very hard at cleaning and bringing a safe,very healthy product to the marketplace. As we have grown over the years, we have upgraded and changed our washing and packing area. We actually have a food safety policy as well as an employee handbook and saftey manuel that is required reading for each employee. Our washing /prep area and cooler are right near River Road, so you can drop by daily during the summer and see us at work. If you are curious to see a copy of the food safety manual, its not a company secret, just e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you back the e-copy.