March 11

The weather of late has been grim,with little sun,seasonably cold  temps and more snow  that in recent memory. Admittedly, it is such small potatoes  when one looks at the  suffering perpetrated by the recent  collection of natural disasters and wars.  Reminds  us of the saying  “I cried because I had no shoes,until I saw the man who had no feet..”  Nonetheless,the  weather is pretty crappy even while  we  are still  proceeding  as though  spring is going to come . At this time of year there are seeds to be sown, plants to be potted, tomatoes to be grafted and planted. There is  usually a last flurry of  educational and grower meetings  that occur as well before farmers get into their brisk  seasonal pace of activities. In our circle of grower friends, we get together for a potluck dinner in late March each year  that has come  to be called  “The Last Supper”, because it is the last time  so many of us can be found in a room together until after the killing frosts of fall.

Many of the recent meetings have been generating a lot of angst in the small grower community about the impending food safety regulations that will be implememented by the FDA. Many smaller growers feel that they are shouldering the burden imposed by the FDA  from a problem that was a result of large corporate agriculture. But the general consensus  among the small New England  growers is that it cant  be a bad thing to review how you wash and handle your produce and modify  your production practices to  further reduce what little risk there may be for the end user.  Mike, Ray and I attended a work shop put on by UVM that helped us look at and develop a simple food safety plan for our farm. Initially it is a pilot program for interested farmers but perhaps could be adopted regionally. There were a few very interesting  take home points for us. 1) the investment is stainless steel  sinks in which you might wash greens is important because it sanitizes the best of any surface.  2) a regular testing of wash water is a good practice to insure low levels of pathogens (something I never thought about much because its the same stuff I drink and brush my teeth with) 3) If you triple rinse lettuce,the dilution rate of pathogens is logarithmic. Wow. Not a dilution rate of 3 times. Thats pretty huge. So,thats s huge impact  and all for the cost of a used 3 bay sink. Thats the kind of change one can embrace. We see food safety as a work in progress,so we will annually review the farm plan and see how we are doing.

I have rattled on too long. Time to put the ice grips on the boots and venture out to the greenhouses…