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Behind-the-scenes-documents of the Growing Season

Sometimes, planning is good. But it’s stressful too! And like most things, on-farm produce safety can be better realized when there is a game plan. In the produce safety world, a game plan is otherwise known as and consists of a Food Safety Plan, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and Records.

This may not be the most fun farmin’ task, but it’s very important! Taking time before fruitful harvests to think through goals and write them down via policies will help streamline tasks during a jam-packed growing season. Especially in emergency situations, it’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed in the moment. By thinking about what you would do in times of emergencies (like if your porta potty tips over or your field gets flooded) before they happen, you can react efficiently and calmly. Well, as calm as you can be. Record keeping enables you to “cover your butt,” and show verified steps you take on your farm in the case something happens (someone gets sick). In this light, writing things down is a way of protecting you and your team.

Let’s differentiate Food Safety Plans, SOPs, and records as well as the various ways these documents can look. Since I’m a visual learner, I made a little graphic below to help sort this out (and shoutout to Phil Tocco for the wisdom!)

As you can see above, the Food Safety Plan is a place to put procedures (what you do on farm and why), as well as house SOPs (HOW you get done these procedures). Records help verify what happened on farm, as well as serve as a reflection tool— “is this policy working for us?” If not, then it's time to go back to the drawing board and re-configure some policies! It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you.

I attempted to summarize some of this in the flow chart, but now that we know the difference between these concepts, how do we keep and create these written documents?

This is where it can sometimes get overwhelming. But don’t fret, the MI On-Farm Produce Safety Team is here to help! Not only are Produce Safety Technicians (and MSU- Extension) always willing to answer questions and walk you through a food safety plan that fits your operation, but we also have a lot of templates available!

A comprehensive document of your farm policies is called a Food Safety Plan! Here are some Food Safety Plan templates for you to sift through:

Here are some examples of and resources about SOPs:

Feel free to use these record keeping templates:

Article by Morgan Anderson, Produce Safety Technician


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