The most frequent comment from smaller growers is that they can’t afford the equipment and ongoing costs required to meet food safety GAPs.
Cost is no excuse and doesn’t have to be prohibitive, according to James Hollyer, a GAPs coach and director of the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific Program at the University of Hawaii.
Hollyer discussed food safety and small growers during the recent Web seminar offered by the Center for Produce Safety and PMA. He said his experience working with Hawaii’s disproportionate number of small growers who sell directly to consumers gives him an unusual perspective.
He said Hawaii has about 1,200 produce growers, with 70% to 80% selling directly to consumers, often within hours of harvest.
“Some pathogens can die off during transportation,” Hollyer said.
“Many of our growers pick in the morning and take the produce directly to markets. Really fresh doesn’t necessarily mean really safe.”
Really fresh can be safe for minimal expense, Hollyer said. He showed slides of what he called “the reality of food safety on small farms in Hawaii.”
A bathtub and a traditional garage work sink in an outdoor packing facility can be sanitized and used to wash produce in compliance with GAPs, Hollyer said.
A variety of free, unbiased information about food safety practices is available to smaller growers, said Suslow, who volunteers for the Center for Produce Safety. Suslow said county extension offices are specifically set up to help growers resolve such issues.