Food safety on the farm is good business
Our on-farm Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Education Program works with Minnesota’s produce farmers to help you develop and implement on-farm food safety plans and prepare for GAPs audits.
Farm food safety planning
Who needs a food safety plan?
Food safety is a good idea and good for your business. At this time most Minnesota growers do not need to have their farm and produce GAP audited unless their customer – typically a distributor, grocery store, school or restaurant – requires it. If you need to have an audit, the first thing you need is a written food safety plan.
Even if you are direct marketing your produce and don’t need an audit, having a food safety plan and following good hygiene and sanitation practices can benefit your operation. It will assure your customers that you are proactively reducing the risk of microbial contamination on your produce.
Get started by using the templates for standard operating procedures and logsheets and adapt them for your farm. The material provided here is guidance and not regulation and should be applied as appropriate and feasible to your fruit and vegetable operations. Keep in mind that this is YOUR plan and should fit YOUR farm.
Food safety plan template
The farm food safety plan template follows the GAP audit checklist.
- A farm food safety plan for you (Download this Word doc and fill out with your information.)
(Download these documents and fill them in with your information.)
- Compost time temp log
- Cooler temperature log
- Delivery vehicle inspection and cleaning log
- Employee training log
- Farm cart maintenance log
- Fence perimeter and field inspection log
- Field sanitation unit service log
- First aid kit log
- Harvest or traceability log
- Harvest tool and container cleaning log
- Illness and injury log
- Manure application log
- Mock audit log
- Morning checklist
- Packinghouse and washing line cleaning log
- Pest control log
- Restroom cleaning log
- Storage cooler cleaning log
- Thermometer calibration log
- Transportation log
- Water sanitizer log
- Water source testing log
Files are editable.
- GAPs are voluntary guidelines for produce farmers to reduce the risk of microbial contamination related to food-borne illnesses on their farms.
- There are various GAP audits available. Depending on the products grown, more than one audit a year may be required by your buyer or customer.
- Are you are interested in selling fresh fruits or vegetables to wholesale markets such as distributors, hospitals or schools? You may be asked for a “third-party food safety audit.”
- Get step-by-step instructions on how to get a GAP audit.
Find upcoming workshops and events.
- Learn science-based best practices to help reduce risks of microbial contamination (Salmonella or E. coli) in fresh produce.
- Prepare for a voluntary GAP audit.
- Learn how to write on-farm food safety plans.
- This training is recognized by the FDA to fulfill the training requirement in the Produce Safety Rule (§112.22c).
Other food safety topics
- Water and food safety
- What it means to be clean on the farm
- Recordkeeping, and more
Minnesota school districts and farmers help improve the health and education of Minnesota school children. These tools and resources will help ensure healthy and safe foods are available in cafeterias across the state.
The Food Safety for School Gardens manual can help school garden coordinators understand how to reduce food safety risks in school gardens. After reading the manual you can use our templates to create a food safety plan that will help you assess your garden and take actions that will improve food safety. Download the Food Safety for School Gardens manual.
A frank conversation between farmers and the food service people who buy and prepare your produce for their businesses and institutions is a good way to assure your buyers that you are providing produce that is grown, harvested and packaged using the best food safety practices.
The video and short survey is helpful for buyers at schools, hospitals and other institutions.
- Shows on-farm practices that growers should use to keep their produce safe.
- Includes information on GAP audits, food safety plans and the Produce Safety Rule.
- Demonstrates how to talk with local growers about food safety before purchasing.
Applying COVID-19 information and guidance to the day to day operations of fruit and vegetable farming is a challenge. We have developed a workbook you can use to create a plan that fits your unique operations.
- COVID-19 information and updates for fruit and vegetable farmers
- Download the COVID-19 Response Plan Template for Fruit and Vegetable Farms. To edit the file, download or copy the document onto your device or into your own Google drive.
- Our FAQ page answers questions specific to fruit and vegetable farmers in relation to COVID-19. It is updated as new information becomes available.
- Find out how Extension ag research and education are still going strong during the pandemic.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) National Produce Safety Rule was finalized and put into effect by the FDA in November 2015. The rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
If you grow and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, you may be subject to the rule and its provisions. Compliance dates vary based on your farm size.
More on FSMA
FSMA overview (FDA) — Key provisions of the rule.
FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety (FDA) — Main Produce Safety Rule page with links to guidance.
North Central Region center for FSMA training (Iowa State) — Regional FSMA training center. Summary of current FSMA related information and a monthly newsletter.
Produce Safety Alliance FMSA training program — Produce Safety Alliance provides the FDA recognized training for fruit and vegetable growers that are subject to the rule.
While food safety is important for all farms, the FSMA Produce Safety Rule regulation only applies to some farms.
There are several ways the farm or operation may be excluded or exempt from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.
FSMA Facts: Does this rule apply to you? (PDF from USDA)
Flowchart to help you understand if the rule applies to your farm.
Your farm might qualify for an exemption from the major regulations in the Produce Safety Rule based on your annual sales and the types of buyers you sell to. If so, you need to follow rules regarding labeling and signage.
How does the Produce Safety Rule apply to my farm? (video 7:02)
- On December 2, 2021, the FDA released the proposed Subpart E - Agricultural Water Testing requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This proposed rule would replace previous language related to agricultural water in the FSMA rule.
- Learn about the proposed rule, and best practices for testing agricultural water to protect produce safety.
Food safety practices
- Hand washing is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce the risk of contaminating your fruits and vegetables with illness-causing pathogens.
- Learn how to build your own low-cost portable handwashing station.
Clean and accessible toilet facilities must be available on the farm site for all workers and visitors to use.
Proper field sanitation helps reduce the potential for contaminating produce and helps protect workers and consumers from foodborne diseases.
All reusable harvest containers, tools and food contact surfaces should be kept as clean as possible and regularly sanitized.
Sanitizing can be done with a number of products.
- Cleaning and sanitizing tools.
- How to mix sanitizers.
- Keep it clean on the farm.
- Washing vegetables using the triple wash technique.
Washing fresh produce with potable water treated with a sanitizing agent reduces illness-causing pathogens.
To maintain appropriate levels of sanitizer in your wash water, use test strips or another method to verify the concentration after each addition of sanitizer.
Always read and follow the sanitizer label instructions.
Water used for handwashing, produce washing and rinsing, frost protection, irrigation, drinking and other uses on the farm should be tested.
When testing water, labs look for harmful pathogens such a generic E. coli. E. coli is an indicator of fecal contamination.
It is important to properly collect the water for testing for an accurate result.
- As a part of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, farms covered by the rule are required to test agricultural water used in producing fresh produce for the presence of generic E. coli.
- These labs test agricultural water used in producing fresh produce for E. coli.
- On December 2, 2021, the FDA released the proposed Subpart E - Agricultural Water Testing requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This proposed rule would replace the previous language related to agricultural water in the FSMA rule.
- Learn about the proposed rule and best practices for testing agricultural water to protect produce safety.