We share our natural world with many different creatures, including numerous microorganisms. Opportunities exist for these microbes to contaminate fresh produce at many steps between the farm and the dinner plate. When produce is eaten raw or lightly cooked, we can end up consuming these microbes. While our bodies are well-suited to deal with incoming microbes, some of these can overwhelm our systems and cause serious illnesses.
To reduce this risk, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is taking proactive steps to “ensure a safe, secure, and wholesome food supply” by tailoring a food safety program specifically for our smaller, local and regional farmers. The Grand Traverse region is well-known for the quality and diversity of its local food and has therefore been selected as one of only two areas in the state to receive a grant from the State to support a dedicated food safety specialist—charged with working with our local growers on food safety issues.
Michigan’s Safe Food Risk Assessment is a tool designed to educate farmers about Good Agricultural Practices, which minimize the risk of microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables. Using this tool helps growers examine their farm practices, identify any risks to food safety, and develop an action plan to minimize those risks.
It examines many things including:
- Worker Health and Hygiene
- Water Usage
- Sewage Treatment
- Animal/Wildlife/Livestock Exclusion
- Manure and Municipal Biosolids Application
- Field Sanitation and Hygiene
- Field Harvesting and Transportation
- Produce Packing
- Produce Traceability
- Pesticide and Crop Protection Materials
By addressing these key areas, farmers build awareness of food safety on their farm and can reduce their risk for microbial contamination. Farmers who complete the assessment with a passing score receive a certificate which can be used to demonstrate that they are implementing responsible practices to deliver safe, high quality food to their customers. As part of the larger movement to increase the resiliency of our local food systems, this tool helps ensure the safety, profitability and viability of the system.
It is still important to take proper care of produce once it leaves the farm by storing it appropriately and following safe kitchen practices. For more information on what you can do to implement food safety practices, visit (http://www.foodsafety.gov/).
To learn more about this innovative program, contact:
For Grand Traverse and Antrim Counties:
For Leelanau and Benzie Counties:
The following farms have successfully completed the Michigan Safe Food Risk Assessment: