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Produce Safety Lessons in Lean Farming

If you have a business or manufacturing background, you may be familiar with the concept of “lean manufacturing”. Coined by Toyota in the 1930s, lean manufacturing serves to reduce waste and increase value by improving continuity throughout the production chain. In the simplest terms, work smarter, not harder.

So what does this have to do with farming? Well, farming is a business after all, and increased efficiency is valuable for any business.


The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman is a must-read for anyone involved in agribusiness. This book is packed full of advice to identify value and waste throughout production, as well as strategies for continuous improvement throughout your business. Many of these principles can be applied to farm hygiene and produce safety.


The overall concept of lean farming is to make things as easy as possible in the long run. Extra work up front can result in less work later on. To optimize on-farm food safety specifically, invest in hygienically designed equipment and replace tools and equipment that take extra effort to clean. Standardize everyday tasks to make things as simple as possible.


Examples of lean farm practices on a produce farm:

  • Store tools where you can see them and where they are most frequently needed. This can also help to keep the tools clean and safe in between uses. 

  • Clean up all workspaces by reducing clutter and removing dirt. Illuminate spaces to encourage maintaining the cleanliness and reduce tripping over excess materials, and to make it easier to see what tasks need to be done.

  • Strategically place a handwashing station as close as possible to production areas to promote frequent handwashing.

  • Hang hoses in your hoop houses to prevent dragging on the ground and to make irrigating easier.

  • Replace difficult-to-sanitize food contact surfaces, such as wood, with metal or plastic.

  • Purchase a uniform set of cleanable plastic or metal bins to use at your farm stand. Line the bins with a plastic bag to optimize the customer’s experience and reduce hand-contact with the produce.


Simplifying everyday tasks can help optimize workflow and free-up time to rest or to plan for the future.


If you’re in need of financial assistance to make hygienic design or other food-safety-related changes, reach out to your local Produce Safety Technician and ask about cost-share. 

Written by Breanna Hannula, Produce Safety Technician


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