Hey all! It’s Emma here. I am taking over Week 13 newsletter to discuss the ever so important topic of food safety and sanitation -- more specifically what that looks like at Heart and Spade Farms.
Little bit of background information about me… I recently moved to Portland, OR from Ames, IA. Yup. Iowa. You know, that one state filled with corn? I completed my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics at Iowa State University while running track and field for the Cyclones. I am an aspiring Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and in the midst of my dietetic internship here at OHSU. Only 10 more months of supervised practice until I get to crush the RDN board examination and become certified / licensed -- with hopes to pursue a Master’s in Public Health shortly after.
Like Annika and Alec, I am a big advocate for the promotion of food as medicine and have loved the opportunity these past few weeks to share that passion while working alongside Annika at Heart and Spade Farms. Annika instills excellent food safety and sanitation practices on her local organic farm. As CSA members, you don’t get to see all the food safety and sanitation standards that are used to get your produce ready for distribution day. Hopefully, by the end of this newsletter, I can ensure the trust and confidence regarding food safety and sanitation you have placed in your CSA farmer Annika!
Sanitization of Bins, Buckets, and Tools: As you may have seen your week’s share of produce gets transported in these large bins pictured above. These bins are washed, rinsed, sanitized, and rinsed again after each use. Same goes for the harvesting buckets and tools. It’s important to remember that there is a BIG difference between cleaned and sanitized. Clean means the surface or item is free from any visible soil, whereas sanitized means the clean surface or item is reduced of any harmful microorganisms. Here on Heart and Spade Farms we reduce accumulation and spread of any harmful microorganisms buy using a house made bleach sanitizing solution. This solution is made by mixing one tablespoon of non-scented bleach per one gallon of warm water. This solution is made daily by the farmers because sanitizers that are exposed to air over long periods of time lose concentration, so it’s best to only mix a minimum amount needed for that day. This sanitization station is located away from any produce washing and harvesting stations along with crop fields as sanitizing agents need to be kept away from foods -- duh!
Washing and Packaging of Produce: In addition to washing the bins, buckets, and tools (oh my!) most produce is washed as well. Having the awareness that food safety begins on the farm results in making post-harvest handling practices a priority for your farmer Annika. Once produce is harvested it is crucial it is kept out of the hot sun and stored properly before distribution -- considering that some fruits and vegetables lose their quality once left in the sun for an extended amount of time. Since the washing process can be lengthy, all produce gets brought to the ‘wash room’ immediately post-harvest. Once your fruits, vegetables, and herbs arrive in the ‘wash room’ they are then washed and rinsed accordingly. Some require more love and scrub than others -- like those darn carrots… I got the opportunity to spend over an hour scrubbing those suckers clean! All in good fun though.
(Mixed Greens being washed before spinning of excess water and bagging; Beautiful Chioggia Beets being washed)
Once your produce has been washed it either gets sent to the cooler to chill out or bagged up for individual portion sizes beforehand. For example – your broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, and salad mix all are individually weighed and pre-boxed or bagged. Not only is this for your convenience but for food safety and sanitation reasoning as it reduces the amount of handling.
Set Up: Your weekly produce only travels a short distance as Heart and Spade Farm is located less than 25 miles away from OHSU. After your produce arrives safety in protected bins with lids to the OHSU pick-up site, we then assemble your beautiful produce! This starts with setting up the tables which are first wiped down with disinfectant wipes and then covered with weekly washed table cloths. As mentioned, it is critical to keep your fruits, vegetables, and herbs out of the sun for an extending period (2+ hours) which is why overhead tent protection is incorporated on site -- also protection from bird droppings, gross I agree.
Washing of Hands: Wet hands, lather hands with soap, scrub hands… you all know the drill, and so do we! Hands can be a vehicle for transmission of harmful microorganisms which is why ours get washed very frequently at Heart and Spade Farms. We wash our hands first thing when we arrive at the farm, after bathroom breaks, before and after we eat anything, before we set up pick-up site, and most importantly when we handle your washed produce.
(Our frequently used sink with fresh flowers supplied from a neighboring flower farm!)
New Implications: I was quite impressed with Annika’s steps to ensure your weekly produce is being handled with safety. However, I did come up with one suggestion for Annika -- in which she took to openly. You all get the luxury of touching and choosing your produce each week making this CSA membership even more personalized. With that being said, the risk of contamination is higher between selections. As just mentioned, hand washing is an important part of our job, so it only makes sense for you CSA members to participate as well. To make us even happier, it would be appreciated if you could hold yourself accountable by trying to come to the weekly CSA pick-up with freshly washed hands. However, if you find yourself in a hurry and you can’t wash your hands before pick-up never fear as we will have our newest team member, also known as hand sanitizer, present for your use. Please make him feel welcome if need be. We can all be germ-busters together!
Closing: A few important closing notes as we approach Week 13, if you have any of your green pint containers leftover from any of the weeks share -- feel free to bring them back to the CSA and we will kindly reuse them for you.
In other exciting news, EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION FOR OUR 2020 CSA IS OPEN. Sign up by November 30 to save $25 and secure your spot in next year’s farm share program. If you enjoyed your experience this year be sure to sign up again and tell your friends!
I look forward to seeing you all this coming Friday. Thank You for supporting local agriculture and awesome people like Annika. Enjoy your fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
– Emma Whigham
This week’s share will likely include:
Simple Oven Roasted Eggplant Recipe: https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/oven-roasted-eggplant
Caprese Tomatoes Recipe: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a48697/caprese-tomatoes-recipe/
How to Beets: https://theforkedspoon.com/how-to-cook-beets/
Cilantro Vinaigrette Recipe: https://pinchofyum.com/5-ingredient-cilantro-vinaigrette