As food safety has come into the spotlight in recent years, Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) has been focused on educating farmers, especially those with small-scale and diversified operations, on how food safety updates and regulations affect them and how they can implement food safety plans on their own farms. With more retail and wholesale buyers now requiring food safety certification, which means that a grower selling to that buyer must complete a food safety audit, commonly known as a GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) audit, many growers are feeling overwhelmed. This process requires a grower’s time to implement the changes and keep records showing that food safety practices are maintained, plus the cost of the inspection to be GAP certified. It can be a frightening and intimidating topic, but we’ve strived to break it down into more manageable bites with our workshops over the years.
In 2013, MIFFS partnered with Phil Tocco of MSU Extension to put on a series of food and farm safety updates. Two workshops gave an overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and what it means for Michigan growers, and two focused on the importance of a produce traceability (or traceback) plan in protecting farms in case of a recall or foodborne illness outbreak, as well as teaching growers how to develop and implement one.
MIFFS has also hosted on-farm food safety workshops and mock audits to give farmers a taste of what the process is really like and what frequent pitfalls are, especially for farms raising many different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
MIFFS continues to focus on food safety strategies for small scale farming operations. Most recently, MIFFS and MSU CRFS supported the UP Food Exchange’s Group GAP Pilot. Currently, we are working with a statewide team to develop awareness around Group GAP and to support pilot efforts. Here are a few example of tool developed during the 2014-2015 pilot
UPFE: Group Gap Farmer Promotional Flyer- Past Promotional Material