“They were doing the right thing, but they weren’t documenting it,” Vande Guchte said. “It is getting very, very tough for a grower to make money. I know there are programs to help, but the food safety side is getting hard to swallow.”
The company’s growers go through at least two audits per year, one from the government and one from a private third party.
“The big one is sprays,” said Todd DeWaard, sales manager for Superior Sales. “Now, they’d better know what, how much, and when.”
The company also requires its growers to label and code each case.
“More (of our customers) require it than don’t, so we just do it for all,” DeWaard said.
Hearty Fresh is all set up with scanners and labels, said Talbert Nething, general manager. The company’s traceability system is run by Famous Software’s system and was recently updated, Nething said. Everything is GTIN-compatible, he said.
“When our customers are ready or when it is mandated, we’re sitting on go,” Nething said.
For growers, though, the added cost still may not be seen as added benefit.
“As long as you have a label on the container, I don’t think anything else is going to improve that,” said Russell Costanza, owner of Russell Costanza Farms, Sodus. “It all sounds good but it doesn’t make any sense. All it does is add cost.”
Costanza said he keeps track of field and lot information anyway, but that the extra traceability requirements that have come up the last few years have just added more documentation, mock recalls and cost.
“They want you to physically write this down ten times a day,” Costanza said.
Still, Costanza said he complies with the added food safety and traceability requirements and requests.
“I’m just a farmer prostitute, I guess. I’ll do anything — just pay me,” Costanza said.
The company is going to individually sticker eggplant and cucumbers this year, Costanza said, although in late May he hadn’t yet purchased the equipment to do so.
“We don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we are,” Costanza said.